College of the Canyons women’s soccer only needed a draw, if not a win, in Friday’s home conference matchup with the Santa Monica Corsairs.
Santa Monica stunned the Cougars, 1-0, to snap COC’s 15-match unbeaten streak and snag the Western State Conference from right under Canyons.
The game’s only score came off the foot of midfielder Vashti Zuniga, who netted a penalty kick in the 15th minute.
Santa Monica controlled the first half, thanks to strong defense and freshman Tia Lucas’ play on the right wing. Lucas seemingly blew by every defender and set up numerous Corsair attacks. Canyons’ back line was able to hold all live balls from sneaking in the goal, as they’ve done all season.
COC finishes off conference play with 51 goals scored to just seven conceded, both of which top the WSC.
The Cougars were electric in the second half and looked like a whole new team had taken the field. COC pressured and attacked for nearly an entire 20-minute stretch but Santa Monica goalkeeper Jaylene Beatts stopped every shot and cross in her zone en route to four saves and the conference championship.
“It was a good battle but unfortunately it didn’t go our way today,” said COC coach Justin Lundin. “I’m proud of the way the girls fought and played the entire game. Santa Monica is a good team and it really could have gone either way. We’re sad to see it didn’t go our way but we got to get our heads up because we have playoffs coming up in a week so there’s not really much time to sit around and cry about it. We have to get right back to work and get ready for playoffs.”
Canyons freshman Ashley Striegel nearly equalized the game just before the half. The freshman took an open shot after a cross went too wide for a few other Cougars and gave Striegel a look just outside the box. However, the shot went just over the crossbar, keeping the Corsairs in front.
COC has a ton of firepower all over the field. Saugus alumni Striegel, Ryan Shepherd and Alyssa Edwards all finished the regular season with 10 goals apiece. Edwards netted two goals in the Cougars’ 3-1 win over Santa Monica earlier this year, making her a critical focus for the Santa Monica backline.
The three pressured up front throughout the game but a few Cougar defenders, who pushed up to attack during the 20-minute stretch, nearly swung the game in their favor.
Sophomore defender Jessie Bonsness took three shots in the second half. Bonsness had a shot go wide and another deflected but absolutely drilled one shot on target that was inches away from equalizing the game if not for a leaping save by Beatts.
Canyons keeper Hazel Saucedo made her share of plays in between the posts as well. Saucedo made three saves, including a leaping one of her own off the foot of Corsairs forward Roz Tauvaa. The tall forward got a clean look right in front of the box but Saucedo somehow jumped in time to save the high shot in the 60th minute.
The Cougars fought in extra time to find an answer but ultimately fell, giving the WSC South title to the Corsairs.
The two were headed for the postseason regardless of Friday’s outcome. Lundin believes if his team can attack like he knows they can, the team may be in store for a deep run.
“We’ve been having a little bit of struggles putting the ball in the back of the net,” Lundin said. “We have the players to make it happen. It just hasn’t been going our way so if we can turn that corner and start scoring some of those goals that we think we should be scoring, we can go a little bit deeper in the playoffs this year.”
Canyons finds out its playoff journey on Sunday. The team will likely host a playoff match next Saturday and awaits a wildcard winner.
Lundin’s team went undefeated for 15-straight matches this season, and has already played some of the top teams in the state. Needless to say, COC likes its chances in any playoff match.
“We scheduled a really difficult preseason and we did that on purpose,” Lundin said. “We wanted to see what’s out there so when we do get to playoffs, we’re ready. We’ve already played the top three teams in Southern California. Actually, there’s only two teams above us that we might face that we haven’t seen yet.”