Estancia girls’ soccer stuns Los Amigos with stoppage-time goal
Estancia High finally bulled its way into the main draw of the CIF Southern Section girls’ soccer playoffs Monday, closing an afternoon of frustration with a gritty goal in the final moments of a Division 6 wildcard showdown at Los Amigos. It brought joy, but more so relief.
The ninth-ranked Eagles might have put away a half-dozen strikes on another day, but struggles moving the ball on unfamiliar turf, inconsistencies that accompany inexperience, and terrific performances along Los Amigos’ back line kept things even until they weren’t.
Jana Akins delivered the 1-0 triumph, knocking home a feed across the goal line from fellow freshman Vanessa Pastrana, about two minutes into second-half stoppage time. It was Estancia’s 17th shot, to just two by the Lobos, and 16th legitimate scoring opportunity. Los Amigos had none.
“We talked about it at halftime, that it doesn’t matter how we score,” said Eagles head coach Josh Juarez, whose team treks to Antelope Valley for a first-round game Wednesday at Heritage League champion Palmdale Aerospace Academy (9-3-0). “It could be an ugly goal, it doesn’t matter. Not that that was an ugly goal, but that was just touching the ball beyond the line.”
Whether Akins got the last touch isn’t certain. Pastrana, who with junior winger Ana Pacheco steered Estancia’s attack, took a feed on the right flank from sophomore Grace Boyce, beat two defenders on the back line and sent the ball to the goalmouth, where Akins battled with defender Valeria Olague. The ball arrived, and then it was in the net.
“I think I, like, bumped into her, and she flicked [the ball] in a little,” Akins said. “I think I touched it a little.”
Whatever the mechanics, it felt good.
“We were kind of stressed,” Akins said, “because we thought we’d have to go overtime.”
Pastrana said she had to adjust her offensive approach.
“I tried to take on [defenders], but it didn’t work quite as well [as desired],” Pastrana said. “So the last chance I had, I gave an assist to Jana.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Carmen Hernandez made six saves for Los Amigos (9-8-2).
“[Los Amigos] defended well, and their goalkeeper did a great job keeping everything out,” Juarez said. “It was really a committee of players to try to wear down their defense ... an overall team effort to find that goal. I feel like it was the whole team just willing that ball to get across the line.”
Olague and fellow senior Anahi Damian were pivotal in preventing Estancia (7-6-4) from turning chances into something more, but Los Amigos struggled to connect in midfield and going forward, despite the best efforts of junior Alexandra Castelan and senior Heidi Perez.
Estancia was better with the ball, and better in the second half, with freshman Kimberly Muñoz and sophomore Kate Jennis keeping the ball moving in midfield and Suly Alvarez providing valuable hold-up play. The bumpy grass field was an obstacle — the Eagles’ only other game on grass this season was a 3-0 win at Los Amigos in December — and a young lineup labored to exploit space behind the Lobos’ back line.
There was opportunity, but the Eagles came close just a couple of times: in the 10th minute, when senior forward Kayden Vazquez fired high from Pacheco’s touch off Muñoz’s through ball; and in the 68th, when Pastrana volleyed wide at the right post after Estephanie Lomas stripped a defender near the right corner.
The win came at a price. Pacheco suffered a head injury on a fierce duel in the 64th minute and went to a hospital after the game, and Juarez later said she’d likely have to go through concussion protocol before returning. She’ll miss Wednesday’s game and likely a second-round match if Estancia advances, he said.
Los Amigos head coach Cassidy Abad wasn’t displeased with her team’s play.
“The other team had way more opportunities in front of the goal, and we held them off for almost that entire game ...,” she said. “A lot of the girls in our program are just learning the sport, so for them to hold off some of these players that have a lot more experience than them, they should not be disappointed in how they performed.”
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