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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
WHITTIER-The Cerritos High girls soccer team needed just one more minute, plus stoppage time before heading into overtime against California High. From there, the Lady Dons were hoping to win the school’s first girls soccer playoff game since 1997.
But time wasn’t on the side for the Lady Dons as California’s Brianna Saldana scored her second goal of the contest as time was ticking down and the Condors came away with a 2-1 win this past Tuesday evening at the six-month old Sandra Sanchez Thorstenson Stadium in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 4 wild card game. Cerritos, the fourth place representative from the Suburban League, wraps up the 2016-2017 season at 13-8-1.
“We broke from the style of play that we practice all year and that was a decision by [assistant] coach [Brittany] Barr and myself just to try something different,” said Cerritos head coach Robert Adams. “We didn’t adapt well to the smaller field and the direct play. Cal has got some really talented players. Unfortunately, we tried to play out of character to match it.”
The Condors clearly dominated the first half, taking 10 shots to none by the Lady Dons. Even with that going on, the halftime score was knotted at 0-0 thanks to some fortunate bounces going in favor of Cerritos. In the 13th minute Elvia Villagomez took a free kick from 23 yards out, only to have it blocked perfectly by a wall of Cerritos defenders. In the 30th minute, a free kick by Viviana Ramirez from 33 yards out hit off the top of the crossbar and over the net.
“We’ve gotten pretty good goalkeeper play all year long and [senior Andrea Diaz] protects the goal pretty well,” Adams said. “So now all of the sudden, those [balls] hit the crossbar; they’re going to hit the crossbar. But the ones that don’t hit the crossbar, she collects. Andrea did a great job on that part of it until we got mixed up in the back.”
Cerritos tried to get some intensity going immediately in the second half and it began 20 seconds in when junior forward Kavitha George took her team’s first shot. A minute later, senior midfielder Jessica Chen flicked a pass to George, whose shot was unsuccessful.
The scoreless tie was broken by Saldana three minutes into the second half, but George would tie the contest nearly midway through the second half when she meandered through the California defense and scored her 11th goal.
“She did a great job of [going through the defense] but we don’t play direct like that very often,” Adams said. “Once you do that a few times, they can adjust and move it around. But Kavitha did a great job. A lot of the other girls show the same way. We expect our forwards to be able to play that free and to play that aggressive. She certainly was the most effective forward we had today.”
With 11 minutes remaining in the contest, the Lady Dons had a golden opportunity to take the lead. But Chen’s 27-yard free kick was tipped up and over by Ramirez. A minute later and right after George was subbed backed in the game, replacing sophomore forward Erika Rizal, she took a shot that just missed going in by the left post.
It would be that same spot of the net but on the other side of the field that would spell doom for the Lady Dons as Saldana took advantage of some miscommunication by the Cerritos defense and deposited her 19th goal. It would be the 15th shot for California whole the Lady Dons picked up half a dozen.
“We really had issues with that game through the middle,” Adams said. “They played direct, took our midfield out of the play and we just made a lot of mistakes. If you give a team like [California] that plays direct enough opportunities, and you don’t capitalize on the opportunities we had, then that’s what will happen.”
Cerritos had missed the playoffs the past three seasons but won 13 games for the second time in three seasons. However, the program has now lost 15 straight playoff games and has not reached the second round since falling to Capistrano Valley High 5-0 in 1997. Overall, Cerritos is 11-23 in the playoffs. The Lady Dons figure to be solid next season as the team graduates five seniors and return a squad made up of mostly of seniors and juniors.