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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION 4 GIRLS SOCCER PLAYOFFS: Valley Christian squanders first half lead, gets kicked out in first round

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


By now, the Valley Christian High girls soccer team must be getting tired of penalty kicks, especially in home playoff games. Having been ousted early in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs twice in the past five seasons in penalty kicks, the Lady Defenders were seeking another long run in the playoffs, one that produced a CIF championship just two seasons ago.


However, V.C. couldn’t hold onto a 2-0 first half lead and eventually lost to Montclair High 3-2 this past Wednesday evening in a Division 4 first round game that went to penalty kicks. In 2015, V.C. lost to Lakeside High 2-1 in a wild card contest and the next season, it fell to Grand Terrace High 2-1 in the second round. Both of those games also went to penalty kicks.


“This team has a lot of heart and passion,” said V.C. head coach Kim Looney. “Their work ethic is some of the best I have had over the years. It’s hard to lose when you work so hard for something and that something eliminates you from the playoffs.”



The Lady Defenders wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as senior midfielder Christina Pollard scored off a corner kick in the fourth minute. It was her ninth goal of the season. However, throughout most of the half, the Cavaliers would dominate, peppering junior goalkeeper Cassidy Samuelson for seven shots before halftime. The best chance for Montclair came in the 31st minute when Anabel Noches fires a free kick that was punched up and over the net by Samuelson.


Less than a minute before halftime, freshman forward Jillian Beck scored for the 13th time and Looney must have been feeling a bit better. Although the Olympic League champions got three shots in the first half, they came out of the gates in the second half much stronger and fired four shots on Kayla Hernandez within the first 11 minutes. The last of those shots came off the foot of senior defender Hannah Lara, who saw her attempt on a free kick punched away from Hernandez.


In the 54th minute, the Lady Cavaliers broke through when, off a throw-in, Krystal Estrella managed to get the ball to trickle past Samuelson. Two minutes later, Noches, who constantly got past the V.C. defense to take multiple shots, tied the contest. 


The long throw was a problem all night,” Looney said. “Tough to defend. Both goals were on the long throw.”


But the Lady Defenders, who added seven shots on goal in the second half and three more in overtime, had chances to end the game. In the 60th minute, Lara’s free kick three yards away from the penalty box was punched away at the far post by Hernandez. Six minutes into the overtime session, a shot from Beck sailed just to the right of the net and one minute later, which caught the ire of Looney and the rest of the Lady Defenders, an apparent goal from sophomore midfielder Sophia Schrock was ruled offside.





The calls were inconsistent [tonight],” Looney said.


Montclair drew first blood in the penalty kick situation when Deanna Rojas and Noches gave their team a 2-0 lead while V.C.’s first two chances were failed, including a Lara shot which hit the right post. In the third round, Estrella had her attempt saved while Schrock was true. Montclair went up 3-1 when Eyra Fabela deposited her shot in the upper right corner, but junior midfielder Megan Bouma was able to find the right side for her try. The Cavaliers had a chance to end the game in the fifth round, but Aileen Sanchez hit the crossbar. V.C. took advantage and tied everything up when junior midfielder Ashley Cuellar found the left side.


In the sixth round, Hernandez saw her shot go over the net while junior defender Emma Spresney’s attempt hit the crossbar. But in the next round, Alyssa Aguilar’s shot appeared to be stopped by Samuelson at the goal line. However, the ball trickled past her. Then, Beck’s tying attempt was saved by Hernandez to end the game.


“They have a linesman on the line for a reason on PK’s,” Looney said. “I trust he made the right call there. He was watching nothing else but the line.


“Cassidy had her best game of the season [tonight],” Looney later said. “She took her role for the team seriously and played each play as if was a play to save the game…and she made that save a lot [tonight].”


The Lady Defenders, who won the Division 6 championship two seasons ago, finished this season at 15-6, winners of six straight entering the playoffs and 11 of the last 12. In the last 12 games before the playoffs, the Lady Defenders had outscored their opponents 43-7 with three of those goals allowed coming against Colony High in the championship game of the Ontario Christian Tournament on Dec. 28. This was also the final high school game for senior Alexandria Burgess-Allen, Lara and Pollard.


“This season was special because of the passion and heart and work ethic they played with this season,” Looney said. “They were a determined group, always did what I asked without a complaint. They were willing to do what it took to win, even if it looked different each game.”