By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
The West Ranch Wildcats’ season was ended at home in the CIF Division 2 Southern Section second round by the Oaks Christian Lions, 1-0 in penalties.
Neither team could find the back of the net in regulation or overtime, forcing the shootout.
Both teams netted three in the first round of penalties. Lions’ freshman Charlotte Ward netted the game-winning penalty kick.
West Ranch battled all game long with a very complete Lions team as the two looked evenly matched throughout the playoff battle.
Oaks Christian started applying pressure early, eight minutes into the game. The attack of Avery Oder, Sarah Spears and Erin Zeile has been deadly as the three have a combined 36 goals this season.
The Wildcats’ back line forced difficult looks for the Oaks Christian offense as nearly every shot was deflected or sent just outside the goal posts. In the middle of the trenches was captain Summer Hahn, leading her defense to clear and deflect any volley around her goal.
“We implemented what we did at practice really well,” said Hahn. “We just all had the same mindset and goal. Because of that, we were able to defend as well as we did.”
West Ranch would hold, though, and only allow one shot on goal in the first half. Wildcat goalkeeper Kendall Schauble was outstanding, keeping the Lions out of the net.
The Wildcats did not apply a lot of pressure until late in the first half. The team had some attacks that looked hopeful but couldn’t get a shot on goal.
West Ranch took that momentum into the second half, attacking well early, but still no goal.
“We felt like we still had a good game plan and we were going to stick with it,” said co-head coach Jared White. “But we wanted to attack a little more.”
After a good corner kick from the Lions, the Wildcats nearly conceded a goal but again Schauble stood tall, saving two balls, with her defense doing everything to get the ball out of the box.
“We’ve been a really smart defensive team,” said White.
Schauble got her final save with three minutes to go in overtime. Lions’ midfielder Berkley Mape got the ball just a few feet in front of the goal but the keeper got on top of the ball before Mape could take a swing. The senior goalkeeper was heartbroken in the goal after conceding the game winning penalty kick, but her teammates were there to embrace her in a heartbeat.
The reigning Foothill League champions were dethroned by Hart this season. But this team managed to pull it together early after going winless in their first three league games and went unbeaten throughout their last nine matches before facing Oaks Christian.
White was beyond proud of his team.
“To defend that team and to keep them at zeros through 100 minutes, there are not many teams in Southern California that can do that,” said White. “So I’m really proud of the defensive effort, not just from the back line, but the midfielders and forwards as well.”