Aliso Niguel’s Late Surge Swamps Capistrano Valley
Aliso Niguel goalkeeper Marissa Welliver dived into the mud and pulled the ball from a crowd of Capistrano Valley players, making her ninth and final save of the game with 10 minutes remaining.
That save turned the tide for the Wolverines. They went on to score two goals in the final six minutes, defeating defending champion Capistrano Valley, 2-0, in a Southern Section Division I semifinal at Aliso Niguel.
“You know how players say they knew at a certain point they were going to win?” Aliso Niguel forward Kim Devine asked. “When Marissa made that last save, I knew.”
It was Devine who triggered the third-seeded Wolverines’ scoring flurry.
With six minutes remaining, she got the ball on the sideline and side-stepped two Cougar defenders as she dribbled into the box. She sent a pass to the far post, where forward Tessa Baker angled a shot into the opposite corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
The goal seemed to deflate the Cougars, who had pounded Welliver for much of second half, outshooting the Wolverines, 10-5.
Welliver, a sophomore who stepped into the goalkeeping job when standout keeper Taryn Acosta moved out of state before the season began, was the reason the Wolverines were able to record their 20th shutout of the season.
Second-seeded Capistrano Valley (17-3-5) had numerous opportunities that looked to be sure goals, but Welliver always managed to make the save. Cougar midfielder Kristen Moore had seven shots in the second half, six that were saved by Welliver.
“I don’t know how I did it,” said a mud-caked Welliver. “It’s just a really deep want. This is the big time and I just wanted to win.”
Aliso Niguel clinched the victory in the final minute on a counter. Baker drew Cougar goalkeeper Staci Sinkway out of the goal and then sent the ball through to Lisa Sternberg for the final score.
“When I took over this program, I said I wanted to be like Capistrano Valley,” Aliso Niguel Coach Randy Dodge said. “There is no better team or program in the past seven years. They’ve set the precedent. But, they got their ring last year, now we want ours.”
The Wolverines will meet fourth-seeded Rancho Cucamonga in the final Saturday with the site and time to be decided.
In the other Division I semifinal:
Rancho Cucamonga 2, Esperanza 0--Erica Jackson and Nichole Smith scored second-half goals for Rancho Cucamonga (20-1-8).
Esperanza ended the season 17-5-6.