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Viking girls win Hart Showcase

Posted: December 30, 2013 6:44 p.m.
Updated: December 30, 2013 6:44 p.m.

Valencia forward Sammy Simon, left, tries to steal the ball from Hart's Danielle Spickard at Hart High School on Monday.

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When Valencia Vikings head coach Sean O’Connell got his hands on the Hart Soccer Showcase first-place trophy, he knew exactly where to go with it — straight to team captain Sammy Simon.

That’s because for most of Monday afternoon’s championship game between Foothill League rivals Hart and Valencia at Hart High, it looked like the Vikings were content settling for a draw and waiting until league play put their mark on the 2013-14 edition of their rivalry.

And then, sparked by a masterful save from Valencia goalkeeper Nicole Joseph with 15 minutes to play, the Vikings (10-1-1) hit another gear.

Simon held the ball in the attacking third, faked right, went left and ripped a shot from 28 yards out to the top left corner to give the Vikings a 1-0 victory over and the tournament championship.

“I thought, reward Nicole,” Simon said. “Nicole had an amazing save and I said, ‘I have to do it for Nicole.’ It was so intense — it was crazy.

“At that point, I just knew it was now or never. I just took it upon myself to get the shot off.”

The game pitted the defending league champion Vikings against Hart (7-3-1), the team largely viewed as the Vikings’ top challengers come league play.

And for most of Monday’s tilt, it looked like the Indians were poised to come out on top in round one.

Hart pressured the Valencia backline, creating chances up top and firing shots from all angles at Joseph.

The Indians took 12 shots, including seven on goal, but were continually turned away by the Vikings.

“They are a very good team. Early on they were playing more of a conservative game in my opinion,” said Hart head coach Guilherme Mitrovich. “We did have the better chances, more shots, more possession. In our mind it’s going to be two more battles. We can see that if we play a smarter game and convert then we can beat them.”

The Vikings held strong, though, taking chances when they came and focusing a conservative effort on stopping Hart.

The Indians nearly broke through many times, though, coming closest on a cross from Jenny Chavez that found Sarah Lindborg in front of a seemingly open net.

And then out of nowhere, Joseph made a diving save.

“I just ran and dove,” Joseph said. “Yes this game doesn’t mean very much, but to me, this means the whole world.”

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