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Cougars Draw Within Reach of Ring, Again

The Capistrano Valley girls’ soccer team is two steps away from reaching the last of three goals it set out to accomplish this season.

The Cougars took care of their first goal in December, when they took home their second consecutive Excalibur tournament title.

Their second goal was accomplished when they won their fourth consecutive South Coast League title. Now the final hurdle, which has so far been unattainable for the 10 seniors that make up half of the top-seeded Cougars’ roster, is within reach--their first Southern Section Division I title.

Capistrano Valley (23-1) has been the preseason favorite to win the title for the past five years, but with no success.

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Last season, the second-seeded Cougars were dealt a first-round playoff loss by Esperanza, the 10th-ranked team in the division at the time. In 1998, Capistrano Valley met Mission Viejo in the title game and lost, 1-0, on an own goal. In 1997, Edison knocked the No. 1 Cougars out in the second round, 2-0, and in 1996, it was a 2-1 semifinal overtime loss to Mission Viejo that ended the Cougars’ season.

“The girls are on a mission this year,” Capistrano Valley Coach Jack Peterson said. “If we continue to play like we have been, we’ll be fine.”

The Cougars host unseeded Arcadia (21-3) in today’s semifinal, with a victory advancing Capistrano Valley to its second final in three years. They beat Arcadia, 3-0, in the Mater Dei tournament in December.

“They are a good team. I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as it was in the third game of the season” Peterson said. “It’s [the playoffs] now, and to make it this far you have to be good.”

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At the beginning of the season, Peterson said that this was the year. He has possibly his best and most experienced offense, boasting a talented group of seniors. Midfielder Megan Abbamonto leads the team in scoring with 17 goals. Forwards Lindsay Greco, Haleigh Roach, Janelle Hillseth and juniors Ashley Casas and Kristen Moore round out the offense.

While the offense has been on a roll, scoring 13 goals in the playoffs, the defense has been quietly dominating its opponents thanks to seniors Sarah Banks, Jessica and Laurel Allen, sophomore Jennifer Horn and freshman Allison Vislay. Freshman goalkeeper Staci Sinkway has recorded 21 shutouts.

If the Cougars win today, they will play the Esperanza-Claremont winner for the title. Third-seeded Claremont is the division’s defending champion.

HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE

Two years ago, when Santa Margarita’s boys’ and girls’ soccer teams reached the quarterfinals and drew home sites, the boys’ squad chose to move its game to Rancho Capistrano Park.

The same problem arose in today’s semifinals; however, rather than move a team, both will play on campus at 3 p.m.

“Nobody wants to move,” Athletic Director Doug Williams said. “They are afraid they will lose fan support.”

Both squads are three-time defending Division III champions. The second-seeded girls’ team hosts third-seeded Manhattan Beach Mira Costa in a Division II semifinal on the football field, while a few yards away, the top-seeded boys host Calabasas on the varsity soccer field.

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“The football field is in good condition, although it does have a crown,” Williams said. “But, [girls’ Coach Chuck Morales] figures he loses more by moving and losing his fan base. So it’s going to be a wild scene around here [today].”


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