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CIF-SS Div. 4 GIRLS SOCCER PLAYOFFS-Second half shots do not go in for Cerritos in semifinal loss to El Rancho

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

PICO RIVERA-Cerritos High head coach Robert Adams said El Rancho High’s greatest talent is playing off the ball. Almost immediately after the opening kickoff in last Friday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 4 semifinal game, it was a defensive mistake of not layering properly, according to Adams, by his team that led to the first goal of the game some 45 seconds in.

Even though top-ranked Cerritos scored the next two goals, the 605 League champions fell short of the program’s second trip to a divisional championship game and lost to fourth-ranked El Rancho 3-2 in a black and blue battle of the Dons.

“We definitely had our opportunities today, and the girls really worked hard,” said Adams. “It just didn’t bounce our way today. They had some goals go in that weren’t created; we gave them the opportunity to shoot and score and they took advantage of that. They did a really good job and I wish them well.”

El Rancho’s Crystal Moreno took advantage of the early miscue and fed a pass to Yammile Picon who sent a shot to the right of Cerritos junior goalkeeper Sofia Arancibia for the very early 1-0 lead. It was Picon’s team-leading 20thgoal. But on a shorter than normal field, Cerritos would have numerous opportunities and the first came in the fourth minute when junior defender Olivia Mendoza’s shot was saved by Ayannara Flores. Four minutes later, a booming shot from junior midfielder Cayla Oliveria bounced off the crossbar.

Midway through the first half with Cerritos (22-1-2) still dominating, senior midfielder Kristin Mijares took a shot from roughly 20 yards out and tied the game. It was her 25th goal of the season, tops on the team. She ends her Cerritos career as one of the best players in school history.

“I want to give Kristin all the credit all that she deserves, for sure,” said Adams. “But there are a lot of people that contributed to this program. I think one of the things is an example to the younger kids. We get an awful lot of good play out of sophomores and juniors and part of that is the bar that is set by Kristin and the other seniors on how hard to compete and where to go.”

Then in the 37th minute, Oliveria had a shot just sail off to the right of Flores, but she redeemed herself a minute later when she took a pass from senior midfielder Vivian Lopez and deposited her 22nd goal of the season, tied for second on the team with sophomore forward Denise Gutierrez.

Cerritos would own an 8-1 shot advantage in the first half but just like the first half when the host Dons scored early, they repeated that four minutes into the second half when Gabriela Perez launched the tying goal from about 25 yards out. In the 55th minute, Moreno would tack on the game winner in the form of a penalty kick. 

Although Cerritos would collect 10 more shots on goal in the second half, none of them would find the back of the net. The best chances came in the 58th minute when Gutierrez had her shot from the right side sail over the left corner of the net. Then in the 77th minute, a long free kick from Mijares near the sideline was punched away by Flores at the far post. Flores would come up huge with nine saves.

“Our two shots were also from 20 to 25 yards out,” said Adams. “The difference is their free kick shots were from probably 35 or 45 yards out. They definitely have a talented player that can take advantage of that. That’s not unusual; it’s one of the ways teams can be effective in soccer. There are not very many ways for one player to make a huge difference.

“We did adjust a little bit and I think the girls adjusted on their own, too,” Adams later said of the short field. “In the first half, that’s where the length of the field or the size of the field made differences. We’re so used to running up and down a really long field that we over-attacked them in the first half. If we could have moved the ball through the midfield a little bit more efficiently and patiently, we probably could have created some chances without just creating large numbers in the box.”

This was the second time in the past three seasons that the lone loss for Cerritos occurred in the postseason. In the Covid-shortened campaign in which there were 10 regular season games, the Dons lost in the first round. This season, Cerritos yielded three goals in a game for the first time and wrapped up the season yielding 14 goals, half a dozen coming in the last three games. The 18 shots Cerritos got brings its season total to 544 and it was held to under 20 shots 12 times. 

“That’s typical for us,” said Adams. “I don’t want to take anything away from El Rancho. I think that we’re an attacking team. So, unlike teams in the past at Cerritos where we hang our hat on a solid defensive team, we can generate an awful lot of attack and power.”

For Adams personally, he now sports a career 109-38-18 record in eight seasons coaching the girls program. Previously, he was the head coach for the Cerritos boys from the late 1990s to 2008, winning over 90 games but going to the playoffs just three times, the last coming in 2000. He has yet to lose a 605 League contest as the program has won five straight league titles.

“Soccer is a great sport and it’s something I’ve been doing all my life and I love it, obviously,” said Adams. “But it’s not football. So, the coaches in some of the other sports have far more to do with moment to moment play in the contest. In [soccer], it’s the players; the players have to play the game. There’s not a lot you can sub and do some other things. So, the pressure on me is really to make sure that I try to prepare them as best I can and do my small part with the team. After that, it’s the kids that have to direct the success, and they certainly did a fantastic job this year doing that.”