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SUBURBAN LEAGUE GIRLS SOCCER: Cerritos scores fast and early while Artesia rallies for tie

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

Within the first 20 minutes of the first half of its key soccer game against host Artesia High, Cerritos High was in a good position for a high-scoring blowout. Three goals in the first 18 minutes was exactly what the Lady Dons needed as they had an outside chance of chasing down Mayfair High for second place in the Suburban League.

But the Lady Pioneers closed out the first half with a pair of goals, then scored the equalizer two minutes remaining in regulation for a stunning 3-3 tie. Cerritos saw its mark fall to 9-6-3 overall, 5-2-1 in the circuit at the time and began this past week five points behind Mayfair with four games left in the regular season. Despite the tie, Cerritos head coach Robert Adams wasn’t too disappointed of the tie against a team that is still on life support for the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs.

“No,” he said. “[Artesia head] coach [Valerie] Blomquist’s group is very young, as are we to a lesser extent. We expected them to play hard, with a lot of pride, and to improve given their youth. We were confident that we would also be better and could handle Artesia’s improved play.”

Five minutes into the game and on Cerritos’ first shot, sophomore forward Shamara Barsana took a pass from sophomore midfielder Valerie Sandoval and scored her third goal of the season. Then four minutes later, freshman midfielder Marisa Couto fed a pass to Sandoval and took a long shot that got past Artesia junior goalkeeper Julia Calderon for her first tally of the season.

In the 18th minute and on the third shot of the game by the Lady Dons, sophomore midfielder Kassidy Valtiera centered a pass to Couto who tapped the ball in at the left post for her fourth goal of the season. At that point, it looked as if the Lady Dons were on their way to a rout and in the process, all but eliminate Artesia (5-11-2, 2-5-1) from playoff contention.

But Cerritos couldn’t generate much offense after that, getting just two more shots the remainder of regulation while the Lady Pioneers turned up the heat in a heartbeat. With eight minutes before halftime, Artesia’s top threat, senior midfielder Brittany Llanes, scored her eighth goal with junior forward Michelle Arbaca getting the assist. Then with time running out in the half, sophomore midfielder Kimberly Flores notched the back of the net for the time this season and just like that, it was 3-2 at the break.

“All year we have struggled to maintain a level of urgency in the front third of the field,” Adams said. “At this point in the season, I think it has gotten into our heads and we are not playing with creative expectations of success in our attack. We will certainly continue to address it as we move forward. We have enough talent to be scoring more than we are currently.”

While the Cerritos offense was floundering in the second half, Artesia couldn’t take advantage despite getting five more shots to match its first half output. But in the 78th minute, Llanes, Artesia’s leader in goals, rocketed a long distance shot that just got underneath the arms of sophomore goalie Shelby Dykes, who had dove to her right. The Pioneers thought they would have one last chance in the final seconds, but the referees blew the whistle just as they were attempting a corner kick.

“Good players with a high work rate make good plays,” Adams said of Llanes. “It was a team breakdown on our part and she took advantage of it.

“I see a team which is improving,” he added on Artesia’s program. “More specifically, I see Llanes beginning to trust some of her teammates and doing a very good job at leading her team in attitude and desire.”

Cerritos hosted league-leading La Mirada High this past Wednesday and was on the short end of a 1-0 decision to see its record go to 9-7-3, 5-3-1. The Lady Dons will travel to Norwalk High today before ending the regular season with a home game against John Glenn High on Tuesday and a visit to Mayfair on Thursday. Artesia will travel to Glenn today, host Mayfair on Tuesday and wrap of the season at La Mirada on Thursday.

“We need to see this as an opportunity to understand the importance of continued focus for an entire contest,” Adams said. “The league this year started off as unbalanced as I have ever seen it on the girls side. We need to understand that teams can, and will, improve. If we remain complacent, we will be at risk of dropping points when we feel we are the favored team.”