On February 27, the Santa Clarita Christians girls’ soccer team took the turf for the CIF Southern Section Semifinal matchup against the Azusa Aztecs at College of the Canyons. The game ended in regulation time with Azusa pulling off the victory, 3-2.
The Aztecs came out and showed they would play a physical game. With just under 15 minutes they were able to strike first to take a 1-0 lead. Cardinal head coach Matt Gale said of their start, “We certainly came out a little nervous and made uncharacteristic mistakes.”
The Aztecs would take advantage of that. They put the ball in the back of the net again with just under 5 minutes to play to take a 2-0 lead. The game’s momentum was definitely on their side.
However, in extra time the Cardinals were able to get solid pressure in their offensive zone. Sydney Boswell was able to take advantage of this pressure. She battled an Aztec player and was able to take the ball up the middle and cut their lead to 2-1.
Shortly after Boswell’s goal the game would enter halftime. It was obvious that the Cardinals had taken the momentum from Azusa.
Coach Gale certainly knew this, “We confirmed that the girls had grown into the game and to continue to play hard and trust each other.” He went on to say, “The girls knew they had missed a few chances and went out into the second half with the confidence that they would win.”
Their confidence was clear when they entered second-half play. Just six minutes into the half the Cardinals would strike again and tie it at 2-2. Kelly Gale scored a beautiful cross-field shot that the Aztecs goalie had no chance to block. Gale received the pass from Senior Sasha Ridenour.
There was a sense of pride for Coach when he talked about Ridenour, “She improved considerably. She didn’t even play last year…Sasha is a great example of what hard work and commitment looks like!”
For another 15 minutes, it was a tense back and forth battle between the Lady Cardinals and Aztecs. Both teams had opportunities, but neither was able to capitalize on their chances.
That was until just under 20 minutes left in the game. The Aztecs were on the attack and were able to score with a deep, booming kick that just arched over the hands of Cardinal goalie Arianna Sonnenberg. The score was now 3-2.
The Cardinals responded with a flurry of activity deep in their offensive zone. A few of their chances just missed the goal. The final whistle blew with the Aztecs pulling off the victory.
Coach Gale said of his team’s performance, “Many girls left everything they had on the field. Kalona Marr is a warrior. Kelly’s goal was special and a great reward for working hard the whole game.” He also pointed out that Abigail Patterson played a position she has never played before and did well.
He also pointed out the play of a few others. “Julia Phillipps, Alyssa Hopewell, and Jenny Curry played well.” He described Phillipps as “another player who would run thru a wall for her team.”
Of two of the freshman, he stated, “Elly Edwards and Sydney Boswell played fantastic like they have all year.”
A loss this deep into the playoffs always hurts but they shouldn’t walk away disappointed. “Sports builds character, soccer can be particularly challenging because you need 11 players to come together as a team,” said Gale. He went on to say, “The girls should be proud of their season and what they accomplished as a true team.”
It also should be noted that 9 seniors are on this team and it’s evident they are a special group. Coach Gale said, “They were great examples to the younger players by being humble, working hard at every practice, offering words of encouragement when needed, and not worrying about personal stats or their glory. The seniors realized that they have God-given gifts and they didn’t want to waste them. They also showed that working hard and having fun is possible.”
The Lady Cardinals may not have played their last game yet. By this next Monday, we will know if they qualified for the state tournament.
Regardless of the state tournament, the Lady Cardinals had an amazing season and a spectacular playoff run. The seniors led well and helped Coach Gale prepare the remaining roster for future success. It should be noted that 3 of the 5 top scorers for the Cardinals are two freshmen and a sophomore (Edwards, Boswell, and Hopewell).
Thank you to Coach Gale and the Lady Cardinals for all of your hard work and for representing well what it means to be a Cardinal!
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