By Grant Gordon
For The Signal
LOS ANGELES – It seemed as though all that separated the Valencia High girls’ soccer team from a first-round playoff exit was a bit more than 10 minutes of game time.
However, in those final 10 minutes, the Vikings rallied in shocking fashion.
Senior Alexa Trujillo scored a pair of goals to tie it before junior Taryn Cunningham scored the match-winner with little more than a minute to play as Valencia rallied from a two-goal deficit with 10 minutes to play to defeat Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, 3-2, in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs on Thursday afternoon at Occidental College.
“It was crazy,” Valencia coach Kevin Goralsky said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this with the momentum changing so quickly.”
With the improbable victory, Valencia (11-6-6) will move on to host Sunny Hills, which defeated Yorba Linda, 2-1, in Tuesday’s second round. It’s the second season in a row that the Vikings are second-round bound, though that looked to be far from possible as Flintridge Sacred Heart (10-4-5), which won the Mission League title, had all the momentum in the second half.
Staked to a 2-0 lead on goals by Marissa Venneri, the Tologs were controlling possession for the most part and had done so since they took a 1-0 lead in the first half.
Valencia came out pushing the pace and had plenty of chances early in the game, but the Tologs weathered the storm and began to maintain possession, find their passes and get better organized on the defensive end.
“We started out strong and I think once they got that goal, I think their heads went down,” Goralsky said.
But a stunning goal from Trujillo in the 70th minute opened the floodgates.
Trujillo’s initial score came on a floating header that looked innocent enough but was mishandled by the goalie.
Eight minutes later, Trujillo tallied the equalizer and the Vikings had all the momentum.
Less than a minute later, Valencia senior Autumn More streaked down the Tologs’ sideline before putting her foot to a perfect cross that found a wide-open Cunningham, who tapped in the game-winner.
Valencia, which got past San Luis Obispo in last season’s first round, is on a four-match unbeaten streak that includes wins over Golden Valley and Canyon to get into the playoffs and set the foundation for the most memorable of playoff openers.
“This team never quits,” Goralsky said. “We were faced with this challenge before when it was do-or-die and we don’t quit.”