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Foothill League girls soccer: Full speed to the finish

Both teams score in final two minutes to end in draw

Posted: February 4, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 4, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Saugus High players, in dark blue, and Valencia High players, in white, react to a Saugus goal by April Johnson, third from left, in the final seconds of the game at Valencia High on Friday. The game ended in a 4-4 draw.

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When it was all said and done, players from both the Valencia and Saugus girls soccer teams looked as though they didn’t know whether to smile or cry.

An emotional seven-day period for both squads ended on Friday at Valencia High School with Saugus scoring the game-tying goal on the match’s final play to save a point in a 4-4 draw.

Some players were holding back tears of frustration. Others were exclaiming joy.

And there seemed to be no consensus on either side.

In the end though, the match displayed two teams going all-out to the final whistle, and will undoubtedly go down as one of the best matches of the Foothill League girls soccer season.

Saugus (18-2-2, 6-0-1) lost its assist leader in Monica Allen on Jan. 27, and saw its 20-game Foothill League unbeaten streak end Tuesday at the hands of Hart.

After losing to Golden Valley on Jan. 27 — the first Foothill League win in Grizzlies history — Valencia (8-11-2, 3-4-1) was on the verge of defeating the two-time defending league champion Centurions when the Vikings’ Rebecca Harrison was awarded a penalty kick with two minutes remaining in a 3-3 game.

Harrison collided with Saugus goal keeper Madi Hebert inside the 18-yard box, prompting the referee to award the kick.

Harrison buried the ball into the bottom left corner, and it appeared Saugus was heading for its second straight loss.

But the emotions weren’t done swinging.

Saugus, which was again without standouts Stacy Atwater and Allen, lost perhaps the league’s best defender on the final play of the first half in Serena Smith-Banas.

But the final two minutes were about the Centurions that were on the field. 

Saugus rushed into the attacking zone and earned a corner kick just before the final whistle.

Lizzy Rivas sent the ball into a crowed 6-yard box and found Angie Weiner for a header that was saved by Valencia goal keeper Nicole Joseph.

Before anyone on either side could exhale though, Saugus sophomore April Johnson kicked in the rebound to save the tie.

“I feel like we just won the CIF championship,” said Saugus head coach Natalie Helgeson. “We were down everybody. Basically all three players that are first-team players (in Atwater, Allen and Smith-Banas).”

The problems didn’t end their for Saugus, either.

Midfielder Alana Shaw was playing with illness, and junior Emily Orr was forced to sit out a portion of the second half due to asthma.

“I was asking so much of my team and they did it in the end when it mattered. All I can ask for is for my team to step up,” Helgeson said.

On the other sideline, Vikings coach Sean O’Connell was just as happy.

The Vikings had Saugus on its backfoot for most of the first half, but found themselves trailing 1-0 on a stellar strike from Nicolette Cascione, who was unmarked in front of the 18-yard box and struck the top right corner of the net in the 19th minute.

Centurion Angie Weiner found Orr 10 minutes later unmarked down the right side of the box, where she took a shot that was saved by Joseph and knocked into the back of the net by Casey Helton.

Despite a two-goal deficit to a Saugus team that had only given up two goals once this season, Valencia came storming back.

“I can’t be any prouder of the girls,” O’Connell said. “Being down 2-0 and coming back. There’s zero more I can ask from anyone. They played 80 minutes — anyone I put in.”

The Vikings’ Lindsay Bos handled a cross in the box from Daphne Coffey and chipped the ball over Hebert in the 31st minute to trail 2-1 at halftime.

Early in the second half, Valencia took advantage of what amounted to a makeshift Saugus defense — as the group had never so much as practiced together on the season.

Valencia tied the game at 2-2 when Taylor Venegas beat Hebert from directly in front of the net four minutes into the second half.

“We were disorganized. We had both those girls going to the ball,” Helgeson said. “That’s just a lack of chemistry and lack of communication.”

Weiner immediately responded, scoring from 26 yards out to the top right corner to put the Centurions ahead before Bos scored the equalizer with 21 minutes left in the game.

For Valencia, the draw maintains their hold on third place in the league standings.

“We control our own destiny for third,” O’Connell said.

The top three teams in the final league standings earn an automatic playoff spot.

Saugus, a team that was half way to a second straight undefeated league season a week ago, is now tied for first place with Hart.

But don’t expect to hear the team complaining about the Friday emotional whirlwind.

“(My team) knew (we) were tired and out key players and out of position and playing against a team that needed to win and we walked away, and we were so elated to score in the final minute,” Helgeson said. “We were so proud for coming back.”

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