Wildcats finish third in Foothill League
West Ranch girls’ soccer finished off its regular season with a 3-0 road victory at Castaic on Thursday to secure a third-place finish in the Foothill League.
The Wildcats (9-6-2, 6-4-2) got two goals from senior Ainsley Pierzchalski and one from senior Mikayla Toliver. The former opened the scoring just seven minutes into the game, latching onto a Toliver shot that was saved and rebounded into her path, before grabbing her second with 30 minutes to go in the second half.
Pierzchalski, playing as the Wildcats’ right winger, was instrumental in helping striker Ava Magaña in front of goal. She was able to score the tap-in in the first half before unleashing a 30-yard shot from distance that had no chance of being saved in the second half.
“I think it’s really important,” Pierzchalski said, “because you get the opportunities from when the striker assists you and you can play down the line and you can get a bunch of good balls and score off them.”
Toliver had made it 2-0 with 22 minutes left in the first half on an unassisted goal. Sophomore Isabella Lopez got the assist for Pierzchalski’s second goal.
The Wildcats are now confirmed as the third-place team in the Foothill League. West Ranch head coach Jared White feels that his team, after a bit of a rough stretch midway through the campaign, is finding its form heading into the postseason.
“We’re playing well,” White said. “We’re getting good goals. We’re scoring in bunches and our good players are starting to play well at the right time.”
The Coyotes (6-10-5, 3-7-2) saw their season end, though head coach Jose Leon is proud of his players for coming as close as they did to a possible automatic playoff spot. The Coyotes finished in fifth, with a few of their games being decided by one goal.
“This team really came a long way since last year,” Leon said. “We had an amazing half of the season, but then we peaked, and we gave away silly, silly goals. We tied Hart — actually, we didn’t tie them, they tied us — and then we tied Saugus, the first two teams. We have a team. The problem is they’re very young.”
Knowing that the Coyotes couldn’t improve their position even with a win, Leon made sure to give all of his seniors, the first group to graduate from the program, a full game on their senior day.
“My seven seniors started everything,” Leon said. “That’s why you saw everybody was playing at the beginning, at the end. I didn’t care about winning this game. It was about them, and that’s my goal. I’m a family man, and they’ve been working so hard for so many years. I saw these ladies being kids; now, they’re adults.”
Castaic had a few chances to score in the second half after being dominated in possession in the first half. The Wildcats stood firm, though, and their defenders made sure to clear out any chance of a goal to secure a second straight shutout in league play.
“I didn’t think they played their best technically, some missed clearances and things, some balls under the foot that are uncharacteristic of that group,” White said, “but whenever you get a shutout against a league opponent, you can’t really complain and that’s two in a row for this group.”
The Wildcats, placed in Division 1/2 by the CIF Southern Section, will find out where they fall in the postseason brackets when the CIF releases them on Saturday at 9 a.m. The CIF will split the teams in the top two divisions, with White believing that his team will most likely be placed in Division 2, where the Wildcats could potentially also see league rivals Hart and Saugus.
West Ranch will be without senior standout defender Naliya Montebon for the postseason push. White said that she tore her ACL earlier in the year.
“She was our starting center back and our captain, and you can’t replace her individually,” White said. “So, we’re just trying to do it collectively as a whole and [everybody has] really stepped up because she’s not coming back. That was really sad for her. She’s, to me, a top two or three player in the league and, like I said, you can’t replace Naliya.”
The Wildcats will now wait to find out who, when and where they will play in the postseason. The first playoff date is Monday for the wildcard teams, followed by the second round on Wednesday. The Southern Section finals are scheduled for either Feb. 24 or 25.