Claudia McKail pacing Canyon girls soccer historic playoff run

Canyon's Claudia McKail (12) takes a penalty kick for the Cowboys during their game against Simi Valley on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at Canyon High School. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Forget graduating high school in May, Canyon girls soccer senior Claudia McKail is just trying to keep her head above water through February.

It’s been a good kind of busy for McKail, though.

The month started with her signing her National Letter of Intent on Feb. 7 to play at NCAA Division 2 Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

As the month comes to a close, she’s continued to serve as the centerpiece of the farthest playoff run in program history. The Cowboys travel to Garden Grove on Friday to take on Pacifica — the No. 1 seed in CIF-Southern Section Division 2 — in their first-ever trip to the Southern Section quarterfinals.

“It’s been so hectic,” McKail said. “It’s been very nerve racking, actually, because I’m going across the country and with quarterfinals … both stresses are taking a toll.

“But I’m managing.”

A modest McKail has done more than simply manage.

Canyon girls soccer’s Claudia McKail keeps the ball away from a Lancaster defender on Tuesday, Dec. 19, at Canyon. Haley Sawyer/The Signal

She led the Cowboys with 13 goals and seven assists in the regular season and scored both goals in the team’s 2-1 win over Marymount on Tuesday in the second round of the Division 2 tournament.

“The playoffs are a different beast sometimes,” Rusk said. “You need that senior leadership to step up so the other girls see what things are supposed to look like.”

As far as seniors go, Canyon doesn’t possess all too many. McKail and Jennifer Patino are the team’s only four-year varsity starters, meaning they’re the only players who were on the roster for Canyon’s last playoff run in 2015.

“We can’t be scared because it’s the quarterfinals,” McKail said. “We have the skill and we just need to know that we can play at anyone’s level.”

Being a part of the team’s handful of seniors, these playoff games certainly bring on a little extra meaning for McKail and Patino.

“I take it as motivation,” McKail said. “I don’t want it to be my last game.”

MORE: Canyon girls soccer continues historic playoff run win with win over Marymount

When that last game does occur this season, though, it won’t be the last competitive soccer game for either player.

McKail, of course, will be heading to New York while Patino hopes to continue her soccer career at College of the Canyons.

The two friends who entered Canyon’s varsity team as shy freshmen will then have nearly the entire country in between them.

“Just being with her since we were freshmen, all we had was each other,” Patino said. “I’m so excited for her.”

McKail shares in the excitement as going away for college had long been a goal of hers. After a visit to Mercy College last summer, which is about 40 minutes from Manhattan, it was a fairly easy decision.

“It’ll be a cool transition,” McKail said. “It’ll give me new experiences to change the way I look at things.”

Before that transition, the month of February and some more playoff soccer still awaits.

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