With the score tied and 2 minutes remaining in overtime, Capistrano Valley High School forward Becky Linhart did what no other player could manage Friday night at Gahr High School.
She reached another peak in her already peaked performance.
In what may have been the greatest breakaway of the season, Linhart dribbled past four defenders and slammed home the final goal that gave Capistrano Valley a 4-3 victory over Simi Valley in the Southern Section 4-A girls’ soccer title match.
“All I knew is that we had 2 minutes left and we had to do it,” said Linhart, who also scored one goal in regulation. “It was either now or never.”
With the match quickly coming to a close, the reality of a co-championship--awarded to teams which tie in a championship match--drew near.
To some, this might have seemed an appropriate outcome. After all, both teams played spectacular soccer, forcing each other to a higher level after each goal was scored. And one by one, players on both sides were dropping with injuries and drooping with fatigue.
“One thing I told the girls (before) overtime is we didn’t come here for a tie,” Cougar Coach Steve Bignal said. “They knew they could leave here champions.”
The Cougars responded with authority. Although Simi Valley had outshot Capistrano Valley, 18-9, during regulation, it was the Cougars who got their offense going when it got tough, outshooting Simi Valley, 8-4, in the 20-minute overtime period.
Monica Larrson managed the first shot just 25 seconds into the period, rebounding less than a minute later with a dangerous breakaway attempt that was blocked by Simi Valley defenders. The Cougars closed in repeatedly, with Gretchen Fleischli firing a strong attempt from 30 yards out.
Although Simi Valley goalkeeper Kim Duran caught Fleischli’s shot, the Cougars did not let down. Seconds later, Larrson zipped downfield toward what appeared to be a clean breakaway goal in the making, but, just 10 yards before the goal, Larrson was tackled by a defender and no foul was called.
Simi Valley began to respond, firing six consecutive shots on goal. But a moment later, Linhart made her scoring breakaway and the Cougars had the title.
“We played such a good game,” Simi Valley Coach Mark Johnson said. “Oh, it’s hard to lose after playing so well.”
Simi Valley, which had upset three-time defending Mission Viejo and top-seeded Esperanza en route to Friday’s championship match, played especially well in the first half. The Pioneers (24-3-2) kept the Cougars out of their favored precise-passing game. But Simi Valley’s most dangerous weapon proved to be the throw-ins of senior halfback Stephanie Gainer, which led to goals--one by Gina Skinner and a second by Kim Taketa, who tied the score, 3-3.
Ginger Frank and Cindy Attaway scored the other goals for Capistrano Valley, which finished its season 22-4-1.