Costa Mesa Sonora Elementary third-grader Natalie Hernandez may be playing in her first Daily Pilot Cup, but the center midfielder is a fierce competitor.
Hernandez is enjoying the competition at the youth soccer tournament, but she’s also well aware of the stakes.
“If you win, you go to the finals and you can win a trophy,” Hernandez said. “That’s my dream, to have a trophy. I really want a trophy, because I’ve never had a trophy before.”
Sonora is two matches away from playing for the trophy on Sunday.
The Sonora third- and fourth-grade Bronze Division team blanked Costa Mesa California 2-0 in its second and final pool-play game Thursday at Costa Mesa High, advancing to the quarterfinals.
Sonora, the Pool B champion, will play in a quarterfinal match Saturday at 12:45 p.m. at Costa Mesa High.
The Eagles, who defeated Costa Mesa Paularino 11-0 in their first pool-play game Tuesday, got a first-half goal from Vanessa Zarate and a second-half strike from Aylin Vazquez on Thursday. They have had balanced scoring in their first two wins, coach Trinidad Hernandez said.
“We teach the girls that they need to pass the ball, not just kick it and score goals,” Trinidad Hernandez said. “We try to teach them how to pass, how to dribble. That’s how we got most of the goals, dribbling and passing, doing plays.”
The defense, led by fourth-graders Emily Pena, Laura Armenta and Alani Bijanjan, did not allow a goal. Michelle Villalva and Emily Tejada split time in goal for Sonora.
“I was really glad that we got both of the goals and the other team didn’t get any goals,” said Pena, who shined as the center back. “We were really happy.”
California, which failed to advance as the second-place finisher in the group, did have a couple of good scoring chances late in the first half. Sophia Zarate’s shot from the left went off the right goal post before Villalva could cover up the ball. Moments later, Amelia Zuniga had a chance in front of the goal but couldn’t quite get off a shot.
“It was actually hard,” Natalie Hernandez said. “I wanted a hard game where we could go and have more fun, but also we need to be strong. We need to get used to [the competition] to win games.”
Sonora also got contributions from Jennifer Chavez, Jaylene Romero, Hope Mascarenas, Breanna Thorsen-McCormick, Kamila Barranon, Bella Frazier, Valerie Menendez, Aneida Ruiz and Lyla Cortes.
“It was more challenging to sub all of the players in,” said Trinidad Hernandez, who is carrying a 17-player roster. “But we got everybody to play, so that’s good.”
The Zarate twins, Sophia and Abigail, were leaders for California. Aubrey Anderson and Carla Morales split time in goal for the Cougars, combining for four saves, while Kayla Rocha, Jaylynn Mendoza and Isabella Stephens helped anchor the defense.
Other contributors for California included Brooklynn Rose, Layla Jasso, Kaylyn Villalpando, Natalia Matusiewicz, Lara Waniss, Kayla Rocha and Mia Sagastume.
“It was a tough game,” said California coach Hector Ibarra, a sophomore at Santa Ana College who played soccer at Santa Ana Valley High. “I knew we were going to face a competitive team. The girls did an awesome job. I’m honestly really proud of all the girls. They gave everything they had, from the starting whistle to the ending whistle.”
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