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CIF-SOUTERN SECTION DIVISION VI GIRLS SOCCER PLAYOFFS: Valley Christian’s long, frustrating season ends in penalty kicks

By Loren Kopff

The 2014-2015 season has been one that the Valley Christian girls soccer program isn’t used to seeing. The Lady Crusaders, who have been a major force in the Olympic League for as long as people can remember, winning six straight league titles until this season and nine since the 2000-2001 campaign, stumbled to an eight-win regular season.

Longtime head coach Kim Looney saw her team, which included seven freshmen and three sophomores, riddled with injuries all season long. All of that finally caught up to the Lady Crusaders, who fell to Lakeside 2-1 in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division VI wild card game this past Tuesday that was decided in penalty kicks. V.C. concludes the long season at 8-12-4, the worst mark for a Lady Crusader team since the 1997-1998 season (8-6-6).

“Each season brings something different,” Looney said. “This team was young and they were green. Come back on this field in two years, they’ll be a dynamite team. It took a lot of energy to teach the game this year. They learned what they had to with the capacity that they hadn’t.”

Lakeside struck first in the 13th minute when Mariah Anaya got loose on a breakaway and deposited a shot past sophomore goalkeeper Isabel Applequist. It wasn’t until midway through the half that the Lady Crusaders began to put pressure on the third place representatives from the Sunbelt League.

In the 25th minute, senior midfielder Cassandra Wind, who minutes earlier, saw her long free kick saved by Yissel Gueta, had another shot barely miss the upper left corner. Seven minutes later, a shot from freshman midfielder Caitlyn Wind sailed to the right of the net. And in the final minute of the half, a shot from junior forward Chloe Garris went off to the left of the net.

Both teams took five shots on goal in the first half and from the way Lakeside was playing in the opening moments of the second half, V.C. was fortunate it was trailing only 1-0. Anaya, with her speed, got past the defense but missed on a breakaway in the 49th minute. Six minutes later, a shot from Ariana Serrato was a bit too high. Then five minutes left in regulation, Mireya Bravo raced through the right side of V.C.’s defense and had an open shot but misfired to the right.

“If my defense has done anything this season, they’ve been the most consistent and when teams are running at you for 24 games, they get tired,” Looney said. “I’ve got only so much speed; I’m working with two injuries on the outsides. That pays a price to my center backs a little bit. You can only keep up after so long.”

The Lady Crusaders tied the contest in the 62nd minute when a shot from freshman forward Lauren Castillo deflected off of Gueta and snuck inside the right post. In overtime, Anaya had two shots stopped by Applequist and other one barely miss the upper left corner while Bravo took a pair of shots that were too high. The Lancers would then connect on all four of their penalty shots while junior forward Hannah Goff and Castillo scored their penalty shots.

“These kids, if anything, knew how to push to the final minute of the game,” Looney said. “They’ve had to do that all season long. When the odds have been stacked against them, they’ve somehow pulled it out, and today wasn’t the day to do that.”

Despite losing its first eight games of the season, finishing in third place in league fir the first time since the 2005-2006 season and scoring 25 goals this season, the future figures to look bright for V.C. with the potential of 14 underclassmen from a team of 19 players returning.

“One thing about Valley Christian soccer is that we don’t ever stop,” Looney said. “We’re going to have our low years. I’ve had plenty of low years in 14 years to where you don’t come up with a league championship. And that’s okay because it builds character. What I have in this freshmen and sophomore class is huge. Their experience in two years is going to be dynamite. I don’t know what to say. We’ll put it together, they’ll mature and they’ll mature in the game.”