Estancia girls’ soccer soars to program’s first CIF championship

The Estancia High School girls' soccer team and coaches pose with the CIF Southern Section Division 5 title Saturday.
The Estancia High School girls’ soccer team and coaches pose for a picture after beating Campbell Hall for the CIF Southern Section Division 5 title Saturday at El Modena High School.
(James Carbone)

The Estancia High girls’ soccer program feels like a family.

Coach Josh Juarez brought in three alumni as assistant coaches this season. Many more will come back to catch their alma mater’s matches throughout the campaign, sitting either on the bench or in the stands.

Before Saturday afternoon’s CIF Southern Section Division 5 title match, Juarez also asked a few alumni to create short messages of support for the current players, that were combined into an Instagram reel.

“I wanted the girls on the field to know who was supporting them, girls who have all been on the field and wanted the opportunity to play in this game,” said Juarez, in his ninth season in charge. “They still know the sacrifice, all the hours, the work that comes into every season. I wanted [my current players] to know they have a community who have all done this, and that’s really what it means to be an Eagle in our soccer program.”

Estancia's Vanessa Pastrana (9), center, celebrates with her teammates after scoring the first goal of the match on Saturday.
Estancia’s Vanessa Pastrana (9), center, celebrates with her teammates after scoring the first goal of the match on Saturday against Campbell Hall.
(James Carbone)

The Eagles now sit on a new perch, higher than ever before. There’s a new piece of hardware to bring to family dinner.

Sophomore Vanessa Pastrana scored twice in the second half Saturday as top-seeded Estancia beat No. 2 Studio City Campbell Hall 2-0 at El Modena High, winning the program’s first CIF championship.

Pastrana scored in the 61st minute, assisted by freshman Paloma Vallejo, and the 71st minute as the Orange Coast League champion Eagles (22-3-1) sped toward the Division 5 crown and history.

“It’s very emotional seeing that we’ve gotten this far, working hard to this point to win something big that we’ve all dreamed from the beginning,” said Pastrana, who leads Estancia with 21 goals this season.

Estancia's Paloma Vallejo (10) dribbles past Campbell Hall's Tea Maltzman (4) during Saturday's Division 5 title game.
(James Carbone)

Estancia was seeded No. 5 in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division IV playoffs. Behind another goal from Pastrana, the Eagles won on the road at No. 4 Rancho Buena Vista on Tuesday.

Estancia plays at top-seeded Arroyo Grande in a Division IV regional semifinal match Thursday.

Campbell Hall (13-3-2), the Gold Coast League runner-up, put pressure on Estancia in the first half with players like senior Tea Maltzman and junior Tyler Parouse. Yet the Eagles defense — featuring senior captain Ava Johner, fellow senior Sarah Hernandez and freshman Aisleen Avalos — did not break.

Sophomore goalkeeper Abigail McIntyre made five of her six saves in the first half for the winners, who were playing in their first CIF title match.

“I thought our goalkeeper really stepped up, kept us in the game and gave us a chance,” Juarez said. “We’ve talked about it all year, even if we’re struggling in a half, can we get to halftime without giving up a goal? Then we make adjustments in the second half. I thought we were playing better … and we kept pushing.”

Tatum Cowie (6) passes downfield for Estancia against Campbell Hall during Saturday's match.
(James Carbone)

A Campbell Hall red card helped, as a Vikings defender was sent off in the 57th minute for unsportsmanlike conduct. Four minutes later, Pastrana broke through, dancing in the box before burying the shot into the right corner.

She struck again on another pass from Vallejo. Speeding up the right sideline, she cut back inside the defender and struck it with her left foot into the net.

“She had a stretch toward the end of our season where she wasn’t scoring goals, and she takes that to heart,” Juarez said of Pastrana, who scored the golden goal in the Eagles’ 2-1 CIF quarterfinal win at Grand Terrace. “But we told her, even when she’s not scoring, she’s creating a lot just being on the field. She takes a lot of attention off other players. But when it was time to step up in the playoffs, she came through time and time again.”

Juarez said he believed this could be a special season from the beginning. Last year, the Eagles fell in the second round of the Division 6 playoffs, but it was to eventual champion Ramona.

Senior captain Ana Pacheco (7) gets control of the ball for the Eagles against Campbell Hall during Saturday's match.
(James Carbone)

“It stung, losing that game and seeing that we could have won,” Johner said. “That drove us forward, for sure.”

Three freshmen have played key roles, in Vallejo, Avalos and attacking midfielder Sophia Zarate. Vallejo and sophomore Jana Akins each have 13 goals.

It’s all added up to a special season for the Eagles, and it will continue Tuesday in the CIF State Southern California Regional playoffs. Brackets will be released Sunday.

Johner feels the family atmosphere maybe even a bit more than most. Her mom, Claudia, played for the Eagles before graduating in 1993.

Estancia's Heidi Nieto (16) breaks away from Campbell Hall's defenders during Saturday's Division 5 title match.
Estancia’s Heidi Nieto (16) breaks away from Campbell Hall’s defenders during Saturday’s Division 5 title match.
(James Carbone)

“We have so many connections and amazing girls who have come through and still support us,” Ava Johner said. “It just feels like an extra support system for us when we’re out there.”

Her senior teammate in the back, Hernandez, said she thought as early as last summer that this might be a special season.

It was already that. Now, it’s historic.

“I could tell that our chemistry was going to be really good this year,” Hernandez said. “Everything’s just so crazy, but it also feels like we earned it. All of the hard work this whole season, it feels like it finally paid off.”

The Estancia High girls' soccer team is all smiles as the Eagles celebrate winning against Campbell Hall on Saturday.
(James Carbone)