Girls’€™ soccer wins top state sectional championship

By Seth Goldman

After falling short of as CIF champions, the girls’ soccer team found redemption in a 1-0 victory over La Jolla High School in the Division II regional state championship. With no team from Northern California to play, the team advanced as far as it could in the state playoffs.

The team’s loss to Saugus in CIF Finals round served as motivation as the girls rolled through the Southern California Regional playoffs, outscoring their three opponents by a combined score of 12-1.

After an 8-0 win over Hollywood High and a 3-1 victory against South Torrance, the team reached the championship game at Downey High School.

In the first half, the Wolverine defense staved off La Jolla scoring chances to keep the game scoreless at halftime.

In the 53rd minute, defender Maddie Lenard ’09 drilled a 37-yard free kick into the net to give the team the lead.

Strong goalkeeping from Clara Jacques ’09 and tenacious defense from Lenard, Leah Merkle ’10, Christine Kanoff ’11 and Erin Landau ’11 sealed the shutout win for the Wolverines squad.

“Scoring the winning goal was amazing,” Lenard said. “At first I thought I hit it over the goal and it took a second to realize that it went in. We didn’t win league or CIF, so I’m really happy we ended our season on a high note.”

The run through the state playoffs was not the first time the team had to rebound from a setback. After starting the year 6-0-1 and making’s top 25 national rankings, the team suffered injuries to key players, including leading scorer Katie Speidel ’11.

The team lost two of its next three games, but the girls responded to the slump well, completing the regular season with a record 5-2-2, locking up a third place finish in Mission League.

The team continued its success in CIF playoffs, motivated by their losses in league play.

That made the 2-1 loss to Saugus painful for the players, who were unwilling to accept less than a championship.

“Winning state was our last chance at a title, so we really had the motivation to win,” said Jacques, who made seven saves in the final against La Jolla. “This was an incredible team with the ability to do great things, so I’m really glad we got to take something home in the end.”

Including the championship game against La Jolla, Jacques and the rest of the defense posted twelve shutouts.

Ultimately, the players’ toughness was one of their most important strengths.

“There was only going to be one winner, and in our girls’ minds, they made sure it was going to be them,” Simms told the Daily News after the win over La Jolla. “What it came down to was sheer perseverence and determination.”