Lauren Madero’s goal in the 78th minute Tuesday didn’t keep Valencia High’s season alive.
It drew cheers from the home crowd, not frantic celebration.
But the senior’s shot into the top right corner of the net as she fell to the turf lifted her team’s spirit, if just for a moment, and sent Madero out on a highlight in a 3-1 loss to Newbury Park in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 girls soccer playoffs.
PHOTOS: Valencia girls soccer vs. Newbury Park
“Especially for the seniors, we had to make this game somewhat special,” Madero said. “We had to keep working hard because it’s our last high school game.”
Madero’s score broke what had otherwise been a silent night at Valencia after Carly McConville scored for the Panthers (11-4-4) in the 20th minute.
She scored a nearly identical goal 10 minutes later, finishing at point-blank range off a low cross from Tara McKeown.
The Vikings (13-10-2) planned for McKeown, a USC signee, hoping to mark her tightly and limit her runs. The senior still looked the part of a high-level NCAA Division 1 player Tuesday, but McConville did the most damage. She lofted a high pass deep into Valencia’s 18-yard box shortly before halftime and the ball bounced off either a Valencia defender or Newbury Park’s Ashlynn Kolarik, depending on one’s vantage point, and into the net.
Valencia coach Kevin Goralsky felt it was an own goal. Panthers coach Tony Cortez, chuckling, said Kolarik had celebrated like it was her goal, so he’d give it to her.
No one was laughing in Valencia’s halftime huddle, but the Vikings didn’t give up, either.
“We were just talking about how we wanted to bounce back and keep the energy alive,” said senior Kayla Kukaua. “I mean 3-0 seemed far away, but we didn’t think it was, and we just kept going and fighting, and we weren’t going to let them get any more.”
Goalkeeper Evan Smith helped in that department. After subbing in at halftime, the Valencia sophomore made four saves, one halting a McKeown breakaway.
But the Vikings, despite creating multiple scoring chances, couldn’t climb back into the game.
“I don’t think the score really dictated the way the game went,” Goralsky said. “… I’d be the first to tell you if we didn’t, but I thought we played really well today.”