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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Gahr girls soccer one step closer to accomplishing rare feat

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

In a tale of two struggling area girls soccer teams for the past 25 years or so, no one is laughing at them this season as Gahr High and Norwalk High are on the verge of reaching near unchartered territory. The two met on the pitch at Gahr this past Tuesday and while it was a 3-0 Gladiators victory, both teams and their head coaches can smile at what lies ahead of them in the next few weeks. 

Gahr’s victory put the team a game away from winning a league title for the first time since 2003 when that team finished 14-5-3. Since then, the Gladiators have finished third and below in the defunct San Gabriel Valley League. 

“I really haven’t thought about it,” said Gahr head coach Martin Henry, who was in his last season coaching the Gahr boys team when the girls last won a league title. “It’s been concentrating on getting everybody healthy, playing together and over the last seven games, it’s been getting better and better and better.”

Norwalk, on the other hand, has turned it around from the last two seasons in which the program went a combined 4-24-1 and 1-13-0 in the old Suburban League. Now, head coach Augustin Ojeda is on the verge of just the program’s third trip ever to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. The first came during the 2008-2009 season and the second came during the 2013-2014 campaign. On top of that, Norwalk is seeing just its second non-losing season in school history.

“We’re excited; it’s been nine years,” said Ojeda, who is in his eighth season with the Lancers. “We’re not thinking about playoffs right now because we’re taking one game at a time. We have three more games to win-Lynwood, Dominguez and Firebaugh. They’re not going to be easy games. But if we improve in our passes and not kick so many passes like we did today, I think we have a chance to improve our game for the playoffs.”

All three goals came within an eight-minute span in the middle of the first half as junior forward Hypasha Garcia scored off a corner kick taken from junior midfielder Kylie Perrey in the 20th minute. Five minutes later, senior forward Genesis Mendoza fed a pass to sophomore forward Amaiyah Purvis for the second tally and Perrey capped off the scoring in the 28th minute.

Gahr would take 10 shots on goal while limiting the Lancers to just one first half shot.

“We came in with trying to think we had no pressure in the game,” said Ojeda. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. We were trying to not make the mistakes we made in the first game. That was the goal. Gahr is a tough team; they’re fast, and they got the best of us this time.”

The Gladiators began the season with eight straight losses, scoring three goals in the process, two of them against cross-town rival Cerritos High, but has since won seven straight contests, all coming by shutouts against Mid-Cities League opponents.
“We always have a tough preseason; we never have any of those cupcakes as they say,” said Henry. “Injuries is huge. I’m not saying we would have won all eight, but I definitely think we would have competed a little better had we been healthy. I believe in them; this is a good group. This is a really good team and we could do a little bit of damage once we get into the playoffs.”

Gahr’s last trip to the playoffs was three seasons ago and before that, the program went through 16 straight seasons of no playoffs and no winning seasons under eight different head coaches, including two stints from Henry. The 2007-2008 team had to forfeit four games and had it not been for that, the Gladiators would have finished 7-3-1 in the SGVL and made the playoffs.

The Gladiators hosted Firebaugh High on Jan. 26 and will wrap up the regular season at Lynwood High on Tuesday and home against second place Bellflower High on Thursday.

“If we stay healthy, we can go pretty far, I think,” said Henry of the playoffs. “Obviously, you have to believe in your own team. Bellflower will be tough and Lynwood and Firebaugh put up a big fight in the first round. I think once we get into the playoffs, if we can get a first place seeding and a second or third place [opponent] from somewhere else, I think that might be a little helpful.”

Norwalk concludes the regular season with home games against Lynwood and Dominguez High on Friday and Tuesday respectively before going to Firebaugh on Thursday. The Lancers (7-9-1, 4-3-0) have scored 22 goals this season, but a dozen have come in league action.

“I like the new league,” said Ojeda. “In preseason, we still play some Division 1 and Division 2 [teams] because we need that competition. Now, it gives everyone a chance to compete. Now, you always have to always be watching behind your head. You have to make sure you play the right way.”

In other girls soccer action, and with the regular season ending next week, here’s what is on tap for the area teams who have either clinched a playoff spot, or are vying to get a postseason berth.

Artesia High is 6-6-4 overall and 1-2-2 in the 605 League, good enough for third place. The Pioneers will host Pioneer High on Friday, then go to second place Oxford Academy and last place John Glenn High on Monday and Wednesday respectively.

Cerritos High is ranked fourth in the Division 3 poll as it improved to 16-1-0 overall, 6-0-0 in the 605 League following a 9-0 win against Pioneer. The Dons will be busy as they visited The Webb Schools this past Wednesday and will host Glenn on Friday before going to San Pedro High on Monday and Oxford Academy on Wednesday.

La Mirada High edged Downey High 2-1 this past Tuesday in a key Gateway League game that left the Matadores at 11-3-3 overall, 5-0-0 in league. La Mirada will travel to Mayfair High on Tuesday before hosting Warren High on Thursday.

Valley Christian High, which blasted Heritage Christian High 8-1 this past Tuesday, can clinch its seventh straight Olympic League title outright with a win against Whittier Christian High on Monday. The Defenders (15-4-1, 6-0-0) also host St. Anthony High on Friday and will go to Village Christian High on Wednesday.

BOYS SOCCER

Artesia clinched no worse than a tie of its fifth straight 605 League title after blanking Whitney High 6-0 this past Tuesday. The Pioneers (12-4-3, 7-0-0) will visit Pioneer on Friday and host Oxford Academy and Glenn on Monday and Wednesday respectively.

Cerritos lost to Pioneer 2-0 this past Tuesday to drop to 4-11-2 overall, 3-4-0 in the 605 League. The Dons are sitting a game behind Pioneer for the last automatic playoff spot as they will visit Glenn (6-7-3, 2-4-1) on Friday before hosting winless Whitney on Monday and second place Oxford Academy on Wednesday.

Gahr is in a tight playoff face in the Mid-Cities League as the Gladiators, who were edged by Firebaugh 2-1 this past Tuesday, are sitting in fourth place. Gahr (6-7-1, 3-3-1) are in fourth place and hosted La Mirada on Jan. 26. It will entertain Mayfair on Tuesday before going to last place Dominguez on Thursday. Gahr has not made the playoffs since 2006.

La Mirada (8-3-2, 6-1-0) is in a great shape to win the Mid-Cities League after a 1-0 win over Dominguez. The Matadores will host third place Firebaugh on Tuesday before going to second place Bellflower on Thursday.

Norwalk stayed alive for a playoff spot with its second straight 2-1 win, this time over Lynwood this past Tuesday. The Lancers (5-6-3, 2-3-1), who last missed the playoffs in 2005, hosted second place Downey (3-2-0) on Jan. 26 and will travel to Gateway League-leading Warren on Tuesday.

V.C. had no problems with Heritage Christian this past Tuesday in a 6-1 win to improve to 8-7-4 overall, 4-1-1 in the Olympic League. The Defenders will go to Whittier Christian on Monday and host Village Christian on Wednesday.

FOOTBALL

The All-CIF-SS teams, as selected by the Football Coaches Association and presented by the LA84 Foundation, were released this past Monday and several area players made that list.

In Division 10, Norwalk senior running backs Davis Herrera and Michael Mueller, both of whom rushed for over 1,000 yards, were rewarded for their efforts.

V.C., which advanced to the Division 12 championship game where it lost to Lancaster High, had senior wide receiver Casey Bouma, junior quarterback Joe DeYoung, junior lineman Tyler Hayes, sophomore running back JoJo Apisala, sophomore lineman Tupu Toloai and freshman wide receiver Jaden Hernandez recognized by their peers while in Division 13, Cerritos sophomore linebacker Nathaniel Crawford made the list.