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Foothill League girls soccer: Cents’ championship march

Saugus overcomes adversity, wins third straight league title

Posted: February 10, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 10, 2012 1:55 a.m.
A group of Saugus High players celebrate after Emily Orr, far right, scores on Thursday at Saugus High. A group of Saugus High players celebrate after Emily Orr, far right, scores on Thursday at Saugus High.
A group of Saugus High players celebrate after Emily Orr, far right, scores on Thursday at Saugus High.

The Saugus girls soccer team faced more than its fair share of adversity this season, as it searched for a third straight Foothill League title.

Injuries and illness transformed a dominate team into what appeared, at times down the stretch, as a piecemeal group of players playing out of position and learning on the fly.

But on Thursday afternoon at Saugus High School, the Centurions completed a run to the Foothill League title with a 3-0 victory over Golden Valley.

“The first year it was pressure — (winning the league title) was what was expected. They were coming off being (CIF-Southern Section Division II) champs,” said Saugus head coach Natalie Helgeson. “Last year, it was a whole different experience. We knew we clinched with three games left. It was a different celebration. This year, I feel like were wounded soldiers, and we came back from battle alive.”

Saugus lost one of its top offensive players in Stacy Atwater on Jan. 20 with a broken collarbone and top defensive players in Monica Allen on Jan. 27 with a torn ACL. As a result, Saugus (19-3-3, 7-1-2) was forced to rotate players around through the second half of the league season.

When it was all said and done, the Centurions entered the final day of the regular season with a simple formula: win and the league championship was theirs.

And against the Grizzlies (7-11-3, 1-7-2), Saugus wasted no time solidifying its spot atop the standings.

The Centurions’ Lizzy Rivas took advantage of a Golden Valley defensive miscue and tapped the ball into the open net for the game’s opening goal in the third minute.

There were no shortages of offensive opportunities for Saugus during the rest of the first half. But the Grizzlies’ defense — led by Idaho State-bound Lauren Bermudez — was able to keep Saugus out of the net.

But things changed quickly in the second half.

Golden Valley moved Bermudez up top in hopes of finding the equalizer.

But the move backfired as Saugus’ Emily Orr beat the last defender, dribbled by the keeper who had come off her line, and knocked the ball into a defenseless net for a 2-0 lead.

“I was thinking I may have moved her a little too early,” said Golden Valley head coach Charles Martinez of Bermudez. “But if you don’t take chances and take risks you won’t get (scoring) chances.”

The insurance goal appeared to give Saugus new life, as they controlled the run of play through the final whistle.

“It was relief for us,” said Helgeson of taking a two-goal lead. “We started relaxing and playing better and it was the dagger for (Golden Valley).”

Saugus added a third goal in the 47th minute by Brenna Savoie for the final tally.

The loss puts Golden Valley in sixth place in the league standings — but regardless of the finish, the season was the most successful in their Foothill League history.

The Grizzlies tied Canyon twice this season, and defeated Valencia 2-1 on Jan. 27 for their first Foothill League win in program history.

“The foundation is there,” Martinez said. “This program needs to improve, and so far they’re improving, and I can see that. One of the more important things is always try to work. You may have bad results one season. Sooner or later the program will be up in the top. But they have to work and put in a lot of dedication.”

With the league title now under their belts, the Centurions still aren’t content.

Saugus will shift its attention to Monday, when it will find out its first-round opponent for the CIF-SS Division I playoffs.

In their first year in Division I last season, all of the Foothill League’s entrants — including a Saugus team that went 10-0 in league play — lost in the first round.

One thing that will help Saugus this season is the return of Atwater, who is expected to play Thursday for the first time since suffering the injury. Allen, though, will miss the remainder of the season.

“We know what we are getting into now,” Helgeson said. “Division I is different — even the at-large teams are a force to be reckoned with ... I would like to go further. I’m not content with going in and making a showing. Without Monica, players have to step up. We’re going to compete.”


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