Santa Clarita Christian came out flat in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Ford Girls Soccer Division 7 Championships against Milken and lost the match 3-0 on Monday afternoon at Central Park.
“I’m proud of how our girls played today,” said junior forward Sydney Boswell. “I’m proud of their work ethic. Even though we didn’t get the win, that’s OK.”
The Cardinals did not play like their usual selves and had trouble creating opportunities on the attack. Many of their set pieces missed their marks which resulted in several missed opportunities. However, the biggest headache for SCCS was the Milken back line.
“We were missing one of our key mids that definitely helps us maintain possession and get it forward,” Boswell said. “I know we had a couple of opportunities that we could have finished, but overall, I think that it was tough getting it forward because we didn’t have our central midfielder.”
SCCS is typically a team that hangs five or more goals on their opponent, including a 10-0 shutout in the first round of the playoffs. But on Monday, the Wildcats’ defense sniffed out any attack before it could fully form and put pressure on the SCCS forwards whenever they got the ball.
“It was really hard because during our regular season we would play teams not to this level,” said senior defender Alyssa Hopewell. “We would beat teams like 16-0.”
Due to their ability to score in high numbers, the Cardinals are a team that isn’t used to playing from behind either. They had to learn to adjust quickly as Milken struck the first blow in the sixth minute of the match.
The Wildcats scored again before the half. They took advantage of a situation where SCCS senior goalkeeper Catalina Sonnenberg appeared to be distracted. Her reaction was delayed as the ball floated over her head and into the back of the net, giving them a 2-0 halftime lead.
“Definitely at halftime we were like, ‘we need to pick things up,’” Hopewell said. “When we were down to Heritage 2-0 earlier in the season, we came back to tie with them, so we had that kind of mindset that we can come back.”
By the end of the half, the Cardinals had a few promising opportunities to get on the board. However, they mismanaged them and failed to secure a goal.
In the second half, SCCS stepped up and made the game much more interesting. Whereas the first half was fought on the ends of the pitch, the second half was battled in the middle, minus a few shots on goal from both sides.
Milken did score a third time in the 41st minute, but the Cardinals limited the Wildcats’ attack after that. Sonnenberg even redeemed herself, getting in the perfect position to block a few Milken shots on goal late in the game.
“I think the result shows a lot,” said SCCS head coach Lacey Lehman. “We got scored on once instead of twice. It was obviously early on, so we were still figuring out the kinks. Coming from behind is not something we’re used to, so it was hard to try and break down their defense.”
The SCCS offense struggled to make the change, however. Missed opportunities on set pieces continued to be the Cardinals’ bane.
Despite the struggles, freshman Briley Phelps and Hannah Shaffer were able to turn on the gas near the end of the match. Both girls managed to put pressure on the Wildcats. Phelps did so with her attack, while Shaffer disrupted their attack by pressuring the ball handlers.
“Briley is always going to be a firecracker and put pressure on the ball,” Lehman said. “(Hannah) does what we ask and that’s if the other team has the ball just go win it back for us. That puts pressure on any player regardless of the level they’re at.”
Lehman sported a freshmen heavy squad during the 2019-20 season and saw a fantastic outcome. The Cardinals went from a team that didn’t make the playoffs last year, to getting a playoff win under their belts this year.
“I think we were able to develop the girls we had last year,” Lehman said. “We also had that really strong freshmen class that contributed to the girls we already had. I think that freshman class really brought a lot to the table.”
There’s no denying that a team whose roster is made up of underclassmen by a whopping 62% will have a bright future. Lehman believes that the Cardinals have nowhere to go but up.
“There’s a lot of hope there,” Lehman said. “I’m excited because we start with freshmen that have skills and know the game of soccer. We’re able to help them continue to grow and help them grow their ability to play soccer.”
Boswell agrees with her coach. She has high hopes for her senior season at SCCS.
“We had a bunch of new freshmen that have come in that were very good and they have helped us throughout the season,” Boswell said. “That’s really good because we’re only going to be losing two seniors. They’ve been a huge help throughout the entire year.”
While the Cardinals look forward to next season and hope to build on their success from the 2019-20 campaign, Hopewell has other things she’s looking forward to. Monday morning, before the Cardinals competed in their playoff match, Hopewell signed her National Letter of Intent to play soccer at The Master’s University.
“I’m sad (the season) ended today, but now I get to practice with The Master’s team,” Hopewell said. “So, I’m really looking forward to that.”
She will be attending TMU on a partial athletic scholarship.
With a young squad doing well and a veteran headed to a Division 1 NAIA soccer program, there are some exciting things going on at SCCS. The Cardinals are beginning to hint that they will be contenders and they should not be taken lightly in the future.