Esperanza High School's girls' soccer team begins its chase for the Southern Section 4-A championship today when it plays host to Chaffey in a second-round match at 3 p.m.
Esperanza, the top-seeded team, had a bye in last week's first round. The Aztecs (22-0-3) are the only undefeated team in the division.
The Aztecs, who finished second in the 3-A last season, are led by sophomore center-forward Lynn Murray (21 goals), junior left wing Michelle Rullo (19 goals) and junior Chrissy Coppage (21 assists).
The Aztecs, who have no seniors, has shut out 18 opponents and allowed just seven goals in 25 games this season, thanks to the defense anchored by goalkeeper Tymerie Busser.
In other top matches, second-seeded Capistrano Valley (18-4-1) will travel to Palos Verdes (12-10-1); third-seeded Royal (19-1-2) will visit ninth-seeded Dana Hills (16-5-5); and fourth-seeded Mission Viejo (19-2-1), the three-time defending 4-A champion, will play host to Mira Costa (16-4-0).
The 4-A division is, by far, the strongest in the Southern Section this season, and many consider Esperanza, with its tenacious defense, to be a good notch above the others.
Perhaps that is why so many coaches were puzzled when the final 4-A rankings--determined by a poll of coaches from the nine 4-A leagues--came out last week with Capistrano Valley, which had four losses, as the No. 1-ranked team, and undefeated Esperanza as No. 2.
"Yeah, I don't know how they ranked Capo over Esperanza," Mission Viejo Coach Jim Dutton said. "I guess a lot of people were wondering about that."
Jan Lipinski, Southern Section 4-A girls' soccer coordinator, said that it was Capistrano Valley's schedule--determined to be more challenging than Esperanza's--that made the difference in the final rankings.