With a roster chock-full of seniors, the Santa Clarita Christian School girls soccer team knew they had to make every game count. Each match was an opportunity for upperclassmen to pass on knowledge to underclassmen.
The young Cardinals players had their last chance to absorb lessons on Tuesday afternoon when SCCS lost 3-2 to Azusa in the CIF-Southern Section Division 7 semifinals at College of the Canyons.
“Have confidence and always pray before games,” said senior Kelly Gale of the message she’d like to pass on to returning players.
“I feel like that helps a ton. And just really encourage your teammates. That helps lift the spirits of everyone and if you have a bad attitude, it’ll be a bad game.”
Early on, the Cards struggled to adjust to the Aztecs’ physicality. By the time SCCS had stepped up their style of play, Azusa had scored two goals – the first in the 26th minute and the second in the 36th.
“Once they realized it’ll be a physical game, they decided okay, we’ll play accordingly,” said coach Matt Gale.
The Cardinals’ turnaround began with a goal from Sydney Boswell in extra time in the first half. The freshman won the ball from an Aztec defender, coasted up the middle of the field and past the goalkeeper for the score.
On the other side of halftime, Kelly Gale knotted up the score with a goal in the 46th minute. She scored on a cross aimed at the left post.
“We’ve been practicing that all season,” Gale said. “They just pass the ball up front, I had to run through players and I … just took a shot.”
Azusa scored the go-ahead goal in the 62nd minute, prompting the Cardinals to push further into the attacking third. They created a flurry of chances, but none of which secured a goal.
“(I just tried) to encourage the girls to go up top and keep the ball alive,” Gale said. “And we had just a couple of near misses. If the ball would’ve bounced one way or another, I think we would’ve got that tie.”
SCCS, which finished second in Heritage League competition, still have hopes of earning a bid to the state tournament.
If that game doesn’t come, however, freshmen like Boswell remain focused on this year’s accomplishments as well as the future of the Cards.
“To get this far, it’s really amazing that as a team we’ve grown so much since the beginning,” Boswell said, “and seeing players improve is amazing throughout the year. It was a really fun game, even though we lost, we played our hardest.”