After missing the postseason for the past six years, the Saugus girls soccer team made its return to the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs on Wednesday, traveling to Fullerton to take on Sunny Hills.
The Centurions kept pace with the Lancers, limiting their scoring opportunities, but Sunny Hills was able to score once in each half to secure the 2-0 victory.
Sunny Hills, which conceded only 10 goals all season, used a strong defensive performance to throw Saugus off its game and take away some of the Centurions’ strengths.
“They are a very good team, great defense. It showed. They were phenomenal on defense and really took away a lot of stuff we tried to do,” Saugus head coach Kevin Miner said. “They were impressive, won balls in the air and just made things real difficult for us.”
Saugus was able to generate more offense in the second half and had some opportunities late, but couldn’t get the ball past the Sunny Hills’ keeper.
Making things worse, Saugus’ senior keeper Kayla Medof hurt her ankle near the end of the game and had to come out.
Sunny Hills scored its second goal shortly after off a corner kick that went over the heads of Saugus’ defense, found the foot of a Sunny Hills player who tapped the ball in.
Still, the Centurions kept grinding, just like they’ve been doing all season.
“We never stopped fighting all the way to the end. We had quite a few opportunities late, but their keeper made some decent saves,” Miner said. “I’m proud we didn’t back down. We gave them a battle. I know that they felt it. Their goals were hard-earned goals and they struggled to get any opportunities against us. It was a good game.”
After the contest, Miner met with his six seniors to thank them for all the hard work they put in all season and for setting a good example for the younger players.
He then took the underclassmen aside and told them to stay hungry so they can come back next year and make a big impact and advance further in the playoffs.
“The seniors, they are a big loss to us, but we have a good core of returning players that I’m very excited about,” he said. “Now they had a taste of the playoff experience and I’m sure they are going to be very very hungry to get us back here next year.”
Though the postseason ended earlier than Miner and his team had hoped, he was still thankful for a great inaugural season as the varsity head coach and proud that his team helped lead Saugus girls soccer back to prominence.
“I’m proud of the girls. It was a great season, my first season. A lot of great memories.”