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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW: Gahr girls lose battle of goalkeepers during penalty kicks in second round playoff loss

GAHR HIGH senior goalkeeper Ashley Correia dives to make one of her five saves against San Dimas High last Saturday in a CIF-Southern Section Division 5 second round game. Gahr lost 1-0 (4-3 in penalty kicks) but Correia notched her 10th regulation shutout this season as the Lady Gladiators end the season at 15-8-2. Photo by Armando Vargas, Contributing photographer.

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The late season momentum that the Gahr High girls soccer team had been riding came to an end last Saturday afternoon in a showdown of goalkeepers, both during regulation and in penalty kicks. In the end, Gahr couldn’t muster another kick or two and fell to San Dimas High 1-0 (4-3 in penalty kicks) in a CIF-Southern Section Division 5 second round game.

The Lady Gladiators, who ended a 16-year playoff drought, ends the season at 15-8-2, the most wins by any Gahr team since the 1997-1998 season when that team finished 17-3-2. This also was Gahr’s first home playoff game since 2001 and the first time in school history any Gahr girls soccer team had played in the second round.

“For the team and the girls who put in a lot of work…we have eight seniors, so they were here when we had one win their freshman year,” said Gahr head coach Martin Henry. “I’m really proud of them and I’m happy to see them get to the playoffs, finally.”

The eighth-ranked Lady Gladiators had entered the contest winning four of their last five games but couldn’t generate much offense in the first half. The best chance came in the 30thminute when junior forward Nicholette Palomo, the team’s leading scorer with 27 goals, had her shot blocked by San Dimas goalkeeper Maddison Moris. 

The best chance for the game’s first goal would come six minutes earlier when a shot from Illiana Betancourt hit the crossbar and bounced back to Jessica Mejia, whose follow-up was high. The action would heat up in the second half and again, the goalkeepers took centerstage. Eight minutes in, Gahr senior netminder Ashley Correia tipped a shot from Julia Maldonado up and over the net, and on the ensuing corner kick, a shot from Mayerly Maldonado sailed high. 

In the 52ndminute, Moris would stop a shot from senior Brianna Rios and two minutes later, Correia dove to her right to deflect an attempt from Ella Ray. 

Palomo would also have a pair of chances to score in the final 14 minutes of regulation, but Gahr’s best opportunity would come in the 69thminute when a free kick from junior defender Kate Alcaino was saved by Moris. But the ball would briefly trickle away from Moris and on the follow-up, junior midfielder Itzel Perez was wide on her attempt to get the ball through the left side of the net.

“There were spurts of them at us, and then we had spurts,” Henry said. We had some golden opportunities that if you would have said Nicholette was going to have two opportunities like that, I would have said she was going to bury them. But there were some good saves too by their goalie. You have to give the goalie credit. Ashley was phenomenal today. But as they say, if you’re going to go down, this is the hardest way to go, but also probably the best in the end.”

Both teams combined for four shots and two saves in the 20-minute overtime session but notched goals in the first round of the penalty kick session. After Bethany Starks was high on her attempt, Gahr went up 2-1 when sophomore forward Kayla Berneal found an opening on the left side of the net. 

However, Mayerly Maldonado was true in the third round while senior midfielder Kim Sanchez was stopped by Moris. In the fourth round, Moris was successful while sophomore Makayla Wade was wide left. San Dimas had a chance to end the session, but Julia Maldonado was high on her attempt while sophomore forward Alyssa Miller found the left side of the net. In the next round, Julia Berard snuck the ball through the right side for the winner.

“We got greedy as the year went on,” Henry said. “We thought we could do well once we got into the playoffs. Being in Division 5 compared to the rest of our league, once we get in, we play schools that are more our caliber.”

After more than a decade of very few wins and last place or fifth place finishes in the San Gabriel Valley League, Gahr figures to be a factor in the playoff race next season. In the past three seasons, Gahr has gone 28-31-7 and showing signs of improvement. Henry believes that this season’s team will leave a legacy for the future Gahr teams.

“I hope so,” Henry said. “We have a lot of returners. We lose Ashley and that will be a big void. The leadership that the seniors showed…hopefully they will have left a legacy for them. You can only hope.”

In other girls soccer playoff action, fifth-ranked La Mirada High advanced to the Division 2 semifinals with a 1-0 win over Yorba Linda High this past Wednesday. The Lady Matadores (18-5-3) will host top-ranked Mira Costa High on Saturday evening at John Glenn High. 

Valley Christian High came away with a 2-1 win against Temple City High this past Wednesday to improve to 16-2-2. The Lady Defenders will visit Charter Oak High on Saturday morning in a Division 5 semifinal contest. V.C. is ranked third in the division while Charter Oak is 10th

The lone remaining area basketball team in the playoffs is the Artesia High girls squad, which posted a 47-45 win at the Academy of Careers and Exploration High this past Wednesday. The Lady Pioneers, seeded third in Division 5 AA, improved to 24-7 and will visit San Bernardino High on Saturday in a semifinal tilt. It’s the first time since 2003 than any Artesia squad has reached the semifinals and the 24 victories are the most since the 2001-2002 team went 26-6 and captured the Division III-AA championship.

BASEBALL

Several teams are participating in the prestigious Newport Elks Tournament. In the Orange County Division, Artesia will host Whittier Christian High on Saturday and visit Whittier High on Monday in pool play action while V.C travels to Buena Park High on Saturday before hosting Godinez High on Monday.

In the Frank Lerner Division, Gahr visits Huntington Beach High on Saturday before entertaining Temecula Valley High on Monday while in the Costa Mesa Division, Cerritos High hosts Long Beach Poly High on Saturday and goes to Valencia High on Monday.

The tournament will continue with games on Wednesday with opponents and locations to be determined following Monday’s action.

John Glenn High hosts Bell High today, North Torrance High on Tuesday and Firebaugh High on Thursday while La Mirada is participating in the Loara Tournament, which begins today and runs through Feb. 29. 

Whitney High begins its season on Tuesday hosting Santa Ana Valley High and will travel to Fairmont Prep High on Thursday. 

SOFTBALL

Artesia hosts Ocean View High on Tuesday and Warren High on Thursday while Cerritos continues play in the Savanna Tournament on Saturday before visiting Edison High on Tuesday, Fountain Valley High on Wednesday and Kennedy High on Thursday.

Gahr will host Chino Hills High on Wednesday and travel to Ocean View on Thursday while La Mirada also continues play in the Savanna Tournament on Saturday. The Lady Matadores will also visit Downey High Tuesday.

Norwalk High visits Bell Gardens High today, Schurr High Wednesday and V.C. on Thursday while the Lady Defenders host Long Beach Cabrillo High today before wrapping up play in the Savanna Tournament on Saturday. V.C. also hosts Oxford Academy on Tuesday.

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