BURBANK HIGH — Anabell Gonzalez was lying on her back as she watched the ball she had just kicked trickle toward the opponent’s goal.
Gonzalez, a senior forward for the Burbank High girls’ soccer team, had just collided with Simi Valley goalkeeper Lauran Harkins eight minutes into overtime in Tuesday’s CIF Southern Section Division II wild-card match. Despite the collision, Gonzalez was able to flick the ball past the sprawling netminder from 30 yards away from of the Pioneers’ goal.
The only question was if the ball would stay on line?
Both the Bulldogs and Pioneers watched as the ball slowly made its way into the left-corner of the net, giving Burbank a 1-0 playoff victory at home.
“I was just wondering if one of their defenders were going to be able to catch up to the ball and kick it away, like what happened to us earlier in the game,” Burbank Coach Loi Phan said. “But it went in.”
Gonzalez, who was trying to manufacture scoring opportunities all afternoon, said she felt helpless as she sat up on the Burbank field and watched the trajectory of the ball.
“I was really nervous,” said Gonzalez, an All-Area and all-league standout. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to go in or not. It was pretty crazy.”
The win puts Burbank (11-5-7) — No. 4 in the Pacific League — into a first-round game at 3 p.m. Thursday at Long Beach Wilson, the No. 2 seed.
Burbank faced a talented team in Simi Valley (16-7-3). Although the Pioneers received an at-large berth out of the Marmonte League, just two points separated the top five teams in the league this season.
Simi Valley created its share of scoring opportunities with crisp runs and solid ball movement. However, the Burbank defense was able to counter every move, thanks to the play of sophomore goalkeeper Katie Hooper. Hooper made nine saves, some on very difficult shots.
“Katie is what kept us in this game,” Phan said. “If she doesn’t make some of those saves we’re outscored by a lot. I thought our defense did a real good job.”
No one came up bigger on a defensive play, however, than Burbank freshman Michelle Morales. In the 72nd minute, Simi Valley’s Savannah Antonucci got behind the Bulldogs defense and got the ball past Hooper. Antonucci had an open path to the goal, as she dribbled for what looked like an uncontested shot. However, Morales came out of nowhere, and at the precise moment the Pioneers player went to shoot, slid and knocked the ball away.
“That was a huge play,” Phan said. “If she doesn’t make that we lose, 1-0.”
After a scoreless tie in the first half, the Pioneers moved players up front and often had six pushing forward on offense. That led to more opportunities.
On one attempt six minutes into overtime, Antonucci and Marisse Hueckea had a two-one-one break deep in Burbank territory. Antonucci passed the ball to Hueckea, who moved in on a diving Hooper. Luckily for Burbank, Hoover just got a hand on the ball and swatted the attempt away.
The Bulldogs, which suffered just one loss in league play, are hoping to keep up their good fortunes Thursday against Wilson.
“Hey it’s soccer, you never know,” Phan said about taking on the Moore League champions. “Plus it’s going to be raining, so you never know what’s going to happen.”