Simi Valley High will make its third trip this decade to a Southern Section girls' soccer final when the Pioneers meet Capistrano Valley at 6 tonight in the 4-A Division championship match at Gahr High.
Simi Valley has forged a 24-2-2 record in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year; the Pioneers lost 12 seniors from last year's team.
"We thought we were going to take our lumps this year, but it has become a marvelous season," Coach Mark Johnson said. "Getting here has been very difficult but now this is fun."
In eight seasons since starting a girls' soccer program, Simi Valley has won a Southern Section title (1983) and finished second (1985), both at the 3-A level. And a move up in classification has not hurt the Pioneers, who were ranked as high as No. 2 this season in the Southern Section poll.
Still, the Pioneers consider themselves underdogs in the title match despite having beaten Capistrano Valley, 3-2, in late December in the Ocean View tournament.
"We had Michelle Light in that game," Johnson explained.
Light, a junior halfback, suffered a knee injury in last week's 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Mission Viejo. She missed Tuesday's dramatic shoot-out victory over Esperanza, the top-seeded team in the tournament, and will not play tonight.
So Johnson will rely on Kim Taketa, the team leader in goals (18) and assists (13), to carry the offense. The senior striker scored with a minute to go in regulation Tuesday to send the match into overtime. Simi Valley won the shoot-out, 4-3.
Junior goalkeeper Kim Duran anchors the defense, which has posted 16 shutouts in 20 Marmonte League matches since Duran moved into the nets last season.
Capistrano Valley (22-5-1) is the South Coast League champion and was ranked No. 1 at the end of the regular season by the Southern California Soccer Coaches Assn. Tuesday the Cougars stunned Royal, Simi Valley's Marmonte League rival, routing the Highlanders, 7-0, behind a hat trick by Becky Linhart.