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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION 4 GIRLS SOCCER PLAYOFFS : Top-seeded Cerritos falls in overtime on one in a million shot

Cerritos High senior forward Erika Rizal scores her team’s lone goal in last Friday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 4 second round game against Palm Desert High. The Lady Dons, the top-ranked team in the division, fell to the unranked Aztecs 2-1 in overtime.  It was Rizal’s 14th goal of the season. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer


By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


All the time spent in practices working on corner kicks and formations and where players should be still cannot prepare any team for what happened to Cerritos High last Friday afternoon. The play that eliminated the Lady Dons from the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs much earlier than anticipated could only be summed up by Cerritos head coach Robert Adams as ‘a nasty, nasty way to lose on a corner kick like that’ when talking to his team following the game.

Three minutes into the second overtime of last Friday’s second round game, Palm Desert High’s Kaci Holliday took a corner kick that curled the right way and found the upper right corner of the net. The ball never touched the ground, nor another player, thus making it a rare occasion where a goal was scored on a corner kick. Just like that, the Lady Dons saw their dream season end in a 2-1 decision.

“That’s just part of our sport,” Adams said. “That kind of a ball; when it’s close and it’s like that, you can never really plan for that. I think it makes our sport a little bit unique compared to a few of the other sports in that luck can do something.”

Cerritos lost for just the second time all season and the first time since Dec. 15, but for the most of the first half, it seemed as if the hosts would post another hard-earned victory, just like the 1-0 win over Santa Barbara High two days prior. Two minutes into the game, senior forward Erika Rizal found herself racing down the left side of the net, then took a beautiful shot that found the right side of the net. It was just one of two shots Cerritos would get in the half.

Meanwhile, the unranked Aztecs, co-champions of the Desert Empire League, started to get their groove going in the 17thminute when Kaitlin Clapinski took a header off a free kick that was saved by senior goalkeeper Roshni Edwards. Five minutes later, Palm Desert would tie the game when Malia Falk launched a shot that bounced off the right post where the ball found its way to the feet of Ivana Gottwald where she tied the game. The Aztecs wouldn’t get another shot off the remainder of the half and would get two in the second half.

“We started well, and it was working fine and then we started missing some passes and losing some opportunities,” Adams said. “And as they raised the pressure, we didn’t adjust to it quite as quickly as we needed to, but we did adjust to it. Once they had the tying goal, then we settled in and everything worked out okay from there.”

Falk would get an opportunity to win the game one minute into overtime, but her shot sailed above the net. Cerritos would get one shot in 13 minutes of overtime but the shot that will be heard around the desert was the one taken by the Sonoma State signee.

“You don’t want to lose these games at all,” Adams said. “But if you’re not willing to be in these games, these are the ones that mean something when you win. The players go out there and play the game, and they play as hard as they can and if the bounces go their way and the skill level and the practice moves up, you can kind of hedge your bet with practice and preparation.”

The Lady Dons, champions of the 605 League, conclude the season at 17-3-4, the best mark the program has had since the 1997-1998 season when that team went 18-5 and won its last league title. Beginning with that season, Cerritos had either lost in the wild card or the first round. In fact, up until this season, the Cerritos girls soccer program had lost 16 consecutive playoff games and the team wasn’t even on the preseason watch list. The Lady Dons, who allowed 19 goals in 24 games and shutout 13 opponents, weren’t even ranked first until the final poll of the regular season.

“I don’t believe it’s happened before, and this group of girls really earned it and deserved it with our non-league opponents,” Adams said. “Playing teams like Cypress helped a lot coming in with the rankings. And we were a pretty solid team coming in. We still are a really solid team. But it’s single elimination.”