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Prep soccer: Vikes streak into postseason

Valencia finishes third in the Foothill League thanks to four-game unbeaten run to end

Posted: February 10, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 10, 2012 1:55 a.m.

The Valencia girls soccer team may not be celebrating a league championship, but that may not matter when the CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs start on Friday.

The Vikings have been the hottest team in the league over the last two weeks, and culminated their late season run with a 3-0 victory over West Ranch on Thursday afternoon at West Ranch High.

Valencia (10-11-2, 5-4-1) entered the game three points ahead of West Ranch (10-5-5, 2-4-4) for third place in the league standings — but because the Vikings own the tiebreaker over the Wildcats, the result of the game had no effect on playoff positioning.

The Vikings, though, came out like a team playing for a title.

Brooklyn Stevens stole the ball after the initial kickoff and played the ball ahead to Valencia’s Samantha Simon. Simon pushed up and found Shelby Walsh who hit a one-time shot inside the 18-yard box that ripped into the upper-left corner for the opening goal less than a minute into the match.

“(The goal) got them on their heels early and we were playing with an intensity and a passion that’s kind of been unmatched by anybody that we’ve played,” said Valencia head coach Sean O’Connell. “Saugus was the closest and Hart was good too, but we’re bringing it for 80 minutes.”

The Vikings, which lost to Golden Valley on Jan. 27 in what was the Grizzlies first victory in Foothill League history, have now won three of four — including a victory over second-place Hart and a tie with first-place Saugus.

O’Connell wasn’t the only one singing the Vikings praises.

“They’re just by far the best team in our league (right now), with all due respect to Hart and Saugus, in terms of soccer and finishing ability they are by far, ” said West Ranch head coach Jared White.

The Vikings added to their lead with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half.

Rebecca Harrison dribbled into the 18-yard box and struck with her left foot high into the net.

“(At halftime) we told the girls to keep playing the way you’re playing. We’ve got to keep going and keep going forward.

(West Ranch) didn’t generate a lot of chances and we were pushing forward quite a bit, but some of their senior defenders played just valiant games,” O’Connell said of the Wildcats. “We were pushing the whole game, but Kendall Moskal and Kylee MacArthur are quality players and they kept thwarting wave after wave.”

The Vikings were able to get by the Wildcats defense once in the second half, though.

Simon notched her second assist of the game when she found Daphne Coffey outside the 6-yard box who struck the back of the net for a 3-0 lead.

Now, Valencia will look to continue their impressive run into the playoffs.

“We’re not in any kind of disillusion,” O’Connell said. “Division I playoffs are amazingly hard. We’re not under any illusions of what we’re going into. But our confidence level right now and the way we’re putting away goals, if anyone underestimates us ... If anyone takes us for granted, they are going to regret it because my girls are possessed right now.”

For the Wildcats, the scenario isn’t as clear cut.

West Ranch will hope to receive an at-large bid to the postseason when the brackets are released Monday.

By virtue of its over-.500 record, the Wildcats are eligible for a postseason spot.

“Looking at our presesason, if that really is the deciding factor, I don’t know how you turn away a team that went 8-1-1,”
White said. “(A team) who beat Flintridge Sacred Heart, who beat Ayala, who tied Notre Dame — who plays in a competitive (Mission) league. I think if you look at our overall body of work it’s well deserving of a playoff chance.”

And if the Wildcats do get into the playoffs, White thinks their possession-oriented style of play could fare well against the non-Foothill League teams in Division I.

“When you’re able to sit back there and play solid defense and keep things compact, you don’t get a whole lot of opportunities aside from corners or throw-ins or close set pieces to score,” White said. “When you play a team that’s more willing to attack and commit numbers forward, it leaves room for a counter attack and it opens up spaces so I think that will benefit our style of play some more. The Orange county teams are much more possession style teams and I think that benefits us.


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