Vidalia Abarca turned from a sweeper into a dangerous striker in her four years for the Los Amigos High varsity girls’ soccer team.
After key strikers Viviana Flores and Ariana Figueroa graduated two years ago, Abarca scored 54 goals as a junior and 37 goals as a senior. But perhaps it was fitting that during her last postseason run with the Lobos this year, Abarca often returned to the position of last one on defense.
“She’s been a huge leader for our program all four years, but last year we had lost eight seniors that had more experience coming into high school,” Los Amigos coach Cassidy Abad said. “This year, the experience wasn’t there … and based on the strengths of the other team and the strengths of our team, we had to make a quick decision about whether she was going to play up on top or in the back.”
When you have a player as talented as Abarca, who is headed to Cal State San Bernardino, you play her wherever she can help the most. For much of the Lobos’ run through the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs, that was at sweeper, with junior Vanessa Sanchez in front of her at center back and senior Adamaris Villa and freshman Tiffany Rodriguez at the outside back positions.
Mya Rodriguez, the other team captain and four-year starter, would move up to the midfield when Abarca played defense. The results were magical for Los Amigos (18-4-2), the Garden Grove League champion which won its first CIF title in program history with a 0-0 (4-1 on penalty kicks) victory over Pasadena Westridge in the Division 5 title match Feb. 22 at Garden Grove High.
Abarca, Sanchez, Tiffany Rodriguez and Judith Callesnoriega all scored in the penalty-kick shootout for Los Amigos, which never missed. And, though the season ended Tuesday as the Lobos lost 4-0 to Ramona in the first round of the CIF Southern California Regional Division IV playoffs, Abarca can take solace in knowing that her senior year helped produce the best team in program history.
Abarca said she felt the Lobos had been building up to this moment. Two years ago, they were the No. 3 seed in Division 6, only to be upset by Hemet West Valley in the first round. Last year, Los Amigos advanced to its first CIF semifinal in program history before losing 4-0 to eventual Division 5 champion South Pasadena.
“This was our year,” Abarca said. “We deserved it.”
Abad said she has reminded the seniors that Los Amigos was a Division 7 school when they entered the program. They leave as Division 5 champions, but it wasn’t always easy.
“I feel like at the beginning of the season, it was kind of rough,” Abarca said. “I did say that one of my goals for the team overall was to make it further than we did last year in CIF. I feel like when I said that, nobody really believed me or anything, but anything is possible. Last year we had more talent on the team, but I feel like this year we brought more heart and more passion to it.”
Nobody would question those characteristics for Abarca, who was a bit of a late bloomer as she didn’t start playing soccer until age 12. She plays club soccer for Slammers FC, and has been playing forward there for a few years now. She said that made it easier to transition to forward for high school as well.
Wherever she was on the field, though, she made an impact. Abarca had a hat trick in a 3-2 victory over Segerstrom in the first round of the Division 5 playoffs, and scored the first two goals in a 3-0 semifinal triumph over Coachella Valley.
“She means a lot to us,” said Rodriguez, the other four-year starter. “She always puts in 110% to every game, and she’s a strong forward and a strong defender. She always pushes herself harder.”
Abad, in her seventh season in charge, called Abarca the most consistent girls’ soccer player that Los Amigos has ever produced.
“We knew she was capable of playing [forward] all along,” Abad said. “The question was always, could she produce more than what she was able to stop? There were some tough decisions at moments [in the CIF final], but she stood up for her team and knew what needed to be done.”
Born: Nov. 13, 2001
Hometown: Santa Ana
Height: 5 feet 6
Coach: Cassidy Abad
Favorite food: Tacos
Favorite movie: “Courageous”
Favorite athletic moment: Helping Los Amigos win the CIF Southern Section Division 5 title.
Week in review: Abarca’s play at sweeper helped the Lobos defeat Pasadena Westridge 0-0 (4-1 in penalty kicks) for the Division 5 title on Feb. 22 at Garden Grove High. She also scored in the shootout.