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Prep soccer: Can’t be ignored

Valencia girls rolling in the preleague

Posted: December 15, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 15, 2012 2:00 a.m.

(From left) Valencia's Taylor Venegas, Sheridan Smith, Samantha Simon and Rebecca Harrison celebrate after Venegas' goal on Friday at Valencia High.

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Despite finishing the 2011-12 regular season as arguably the hottest team in the Foothill League, and starting out this season with an impressive record against quality competition, the Valencia girls soccer team remains unranked in the CIF-Southern Section Division II poll and is still looking to garner some respect.

After Friday night, the Vikings are going to be hard to ignore.

In a game that featured two fast-paced teams, the Vikings utilized their speed from the backline through to the top, and showcased a technically sound defense in a 3-0 victory over El Camino Real of Woodland Hills.

“(This result) is going to open up some eyes,” said Valencia head coach Sean O’Connell.

El Camino (2-2-2), an 11-time CIF-Los Angeles City Section champion, played well off the counterattack and ran much of its offense through University of San Diego commit Jackie Altschuld.

The Conquistadors certainly had no shortage of shots in the match, racking up 17 — mostly from Altschuld — but couldn’t break through Valencia goalkeeper Nicole Joseph and an athletic backline. That despite an aggressive offensive style that opened things up for El Camino’s counterattack.

“We’re playing a really aggressive, attacking style,” O’Connell said. “But we have a lot of confidence in our keeper and our backline is very good and technical.”

With the defense holding ECR at bay, the offense was able to get away with that aggressiveness for the full 80 minutes.

Valencia (6-1-2) was moving the ball through the midfield quickly and proved adept at connecting passes in the offensive third to open up shots.

The offensive third proved to be an area of strength for Valencia, which was able to keep possession in and around the penalty box for long stretches of time, and came away with the game’s opening goal with 27 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the first half.

Taylor Venegas found the ball at her feet, spun and barely got the shot off inside the box before being taken to the ground by a pair of Conquistador defenders for a 1-0 lead.

“My back was to the goal and then two girls sandwiched me,” Venegas said. “I fell down and didn’t know I got the goal until everyone was cheering.”

Things almost went in a very different direction just nine minutes into the half, though.

Altschuld carried the ball in from midfield and unleashed a shot from 30 yards out that forced Joseph to make a diving save to keep the game scoreless.

“It’s so important (to score first),” Venegas said. “We get so much more momentum. It’s better to stay up than try to play from behind.”

Venegas added to Valencia’s lead early in the second half.

Midfielder Rebecca Harrison sent a through pass into the corner to Lindsay Bos, who sent a cross into the box that Venegas put in the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.

ECR continued to apply consistent pressure on the Vikings until the end, forcing Joseph to make six saves in the contest.

The lead ballooned to 3-0 in the game’s 55th minute, as Bos sent a pass down the sideline to Samantha Simon, whose chip shot from near the endline went up and over keeper Alex Best to the far post for a goal.

“Valencia’s a very good team and we just didn’t play that well today,” said El Camino Real head coach Eric Choi. “We came out sloppy and unfocused.”

The challenges continue right away for Valencia, with a contest today against Flintridge Sacred Heart at Occidental College at 1 p.m.

“It’s good to have hard competition,” Venegas said. “It sets high goals for us to reach.”

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