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Prep girls soccer: Better is bested as Vikings fall

Valencia girls soccer team’s season ends in the playoff quarterfinals

Posted: February 21, 2013 9:07 p.m.
Updated: February 21, 2013 9:07 p.m.

Valencia teammates Carolina Velez (9) and Lindsay Bos (2) walk off the field as Sunny Hills celebrates in the background after the Vikings lost 3-2 in the CIF-Southern Section Division II quarterfinal at Valencia High on Thursday. (Jonathan Pobre/The Signal)

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There was no question from either sideline who the better team was during Thursday’s CIF-Southern Section Division II quarterfinal contest at Valencia High School.

But the better team doesn’t always come out on top — and that point was driven home during the Sunny Hills Lancers’ 3-2 extra-time victory over the Valencia Vikings girls soccer team.

“They played every game with heart all year,” said Valencia head coach Sean O’Connell. “They’ve given us everything they’ve got every time.”

The Vikings (17-2-5 overall) were aggressive, proficient with the ball at their feet, and fiercely determined for over 80 minutes, twice fighting back from one-goal deficits after the Lancers (23-1-5) struck on set pieces.

But four minutes into the first golden-goal extra period, freshman Jewels Zuniga — normally a defender moved up to forward after regulation — put a beautiful shot from 26 yards up and over Valencia goalkeeper Nicole Joseph for the victory.

It certainly looked like it was just a matter of time before the Vikings pulled out the decisive goal late in regulation, with the score tied 2-2.

The Vikings were pushing up hard, moving the ball through the midfield and into the attacking zone almost with ease.

Sunny Hills had been content packing things in defensively and taking its chances on long throw-ins into the box and corner kicks.

“I thought they were the better overall team, give them a lot of credit,” said Sunny Hills head coach Jeff Gordon. “I could tell they were another level than what we normally play. I could tell they were fast and really good and reminded me of a (CIF-SS) Division I team.”

Valencia had two quality chances to score late, as senior Lindsay Bos’ free kick from the left sideline went over the net in the 73rd minute, and Eryn Spencer’s kick from inside the 6-yard box was deflected away by a Lancers defender with less than two minutes remaining.

“I can’t even believe we didn’t have a goal in the last 20 minutes of that second half,” O’Connell said.

Valencia put 10 shots on goal in the game — eight in the second half.

“Without question,” Gordon said, when asked if he was just trying to hang on at the end of regulation. “We’ve got 20 shutouts this season. We bend but we don’t break. I knew we would defend our 18.”

Sunny Hills, which hasn’t lost since Nov. 29 — a 28-game unbeaten streak — struck first on a long throw-in into the box.

Bethany Hanson sent a ball into the 6-yard box that found its way to the foot of Sarah Gauthier in the seventh minute and into the back of the net.

But the Vikings struck right back, equalizing on a goal by Taylor Venegas off a rebound less than a minute later.

The score remained tied at halftime before Sunny Hills scored in almost identical fashion in the 52nd minute — this time off a corner that was batted around and again knocked in by Gauthier.

“I felt that was defensively our fault. We should have been holding the 18 and giving Nicole more room,” O’Connell said.

But again, the Vikings responded.

Venegas found the ball in space near midfield and carried into the attacking zone, unleashing a shot from 25-yards out that ricochetted off a Sunny Hills player and into the right side of the net midway through the second half.

“Taylor was easily the MVP of the game,” O’Connell said. “She played that second half possessed. Her getting that goal was a huge momentum shift.”

The Vikings’ season comes to a close after having won their first Foothill League title since 2009 and advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time in head coach Sean O’Connell’s eight-year tenure.

They’ll expect to return 14 players from this year’s squad in 2013-14.

“I hope this leaves a bitter taste of defeat so they know what it feels like to get this far,” O’Connell said.

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