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Estancia girls’ soccer shuts out San Jacinto, heads to program’s first CIF final

Estancia's Ana Pacheco, right, seen on Jan. 17, 2022, assisted on the game-winning goal  on Saturday at San Jacinto.
Estancia’s Ana Pacheco, right, seen on Jan. 17, 2022, assisted on the game-winning goal for the Eagles on Saturday at San Jacinto.
(File photo)
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As the referee’s whistle sounded, the Estancia girls’ soccer team piled onto each other at the midfield logo to celebrate a new accomplishment for the program.

The Eagles will compete in a CIF Southern Section championship game for the first time, the team’s newest members playing a pivotal part in advancing to that stage.

Freshman forward Paloma Vallejo scored in the 35th minute, supplying the difference in a 1-0 win for Estancia on Saturday afternoon against host San Jacinto in a Division 5 semifinal.

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Estancia was building momentum late in the first half, sophomore striker Vanessa Pastrana having earned the Eagles their second chance from the left corner flag in two minutes. The initial entry was cleared.

San Jacinto senior forward Zuleyka Gonzalez played a ball toward the Eagles’ sideline to start the breakout, and senior defensive midfielder Ana Pacheco intercepted the pass. Pacheco took several dribbles, before locating Vallejo in the box. Vallejo controlled the ball with her right foot, then stepped into a left-footed strike that snuck inside the right post on the far side.

“It feels great, especially as a freshman on varsity,” Vallejo said. “I couldn’t believe we made it to the finals. I’m very excited for the finals.”

Top-seeded Estancia (20-3-1) will play Studio City Campbell Hall (13-2-2) in the Division 5 final next Friday or Saturday. The second-seeded Vikings earned a 2-1 win at Garden Grove in their semifinal.

Estancia's Paloma Vallejo (10) dribbles with the ball at her feet against San Jacinto in a CIF Division 5 semifinal.
Estancia’s Paloma Vallejo (10) dribbles with the ball at her feet against San Jacinto in a CIF Southern Section Division 5 semifinal girls’ soccer match on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.
(Courtesy of Matt Johner)

In the quarterfinal round, the Eagles were on the brink of elimination at Grand Terrace. They needed to answer a late penalty kick in regulation, before a golden goal by Pastrana in the second overtime extended Estancia’s season.

“The girls looked loose today,” Estancia coach Josh Juarez said. “The girls looked confident today, and I think it stemmed from that game.”

After scoring a goal, the question became whether Estancia could prevent a comeback. Freshman right back Aisleen Avalos drew the assignment of marking sophomore forward Jaelyn Frazier, who had 20 goals to lead San Jacinto (17-7-4) this season.

Estancia's Vanessa Pastrana (9) chases down the ball against San Jacinto in a CIF Division 5 semifinal on Saturday.
Estancia’s Vanessa Pastrana (9) chases down the ball against San Jacinto in a CIF Southern Section Division 5 semifinal on Saturday.
(Courtesy of Matt Johner)

Avalos would come through in the 55th minute, challenging a header with Frazier bearing down on her, directing it toward the right corner flag. Frazier won the ball in the corner, but she settled for a long-range shot that bounced in and was grabbed by sophomore goalkeeper Abigail McIntyre (four saves).

“The header, very scary,” said Avalos, who was joined on the back line by center back Ava Johner and left back Sarah Hernandez, both seniors. “I have received a head injury from an impact like that, so going into those is scary, but at that point, it’s CIF semifinals. It’s all or nothing. You really just got to put your whole body into it, and luckily, I was able to get her out there, push her wide enough for Sarah to get back there.”

As for the celebration at midfield, Avalos was late to the party — with good reason.

“I’m not really into getting squished by 30 girls,” Avalos said. “I’ll be the last one. I’ll be the cherry on top.”

Estancia's Ava Johner (21) looks to pass against San Jacinto in a CIF Southern Section Division 5 semifinal on Saturday.
Estancia’s Ava Johner (21) looks up to make a pass against San Jacinto in a CIF Southern Section Division 5 semifinal on Saturday.
(Courtesy of Matt Johner)
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