Girls' Soccer: Hubbard lifts Eagles to second round

COSTA MESA — Jackie Hubbard spent last year at Edison High. She didn't play soccer at the school.

She never played in high school until this season, when she transferred to Estancia.

"It was just way too competitive," Hubbard said of soccer at her former school. "It wasn't really about fun.

"It's just like a better experience [at Estancia]."

Coach Jessica Perry has sweetened the deal for players like Hubbard at Estancia.

On Valentine's Day, Hubbard and her teammates received candy from Perry. She told them before they opened the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs at home, "If you love me, you win."

Hubbard showed her coach some love six minutes into the second half. She scored a goal and that was enough for the Eagles to get past Beverly Hills, 1-0, in the first round on Thursday.

The goal was Hubbard's 12th of the season. Perry is glad Hubbard is at Estancia. With Hubbard, the Eagles were able to win an opening-round playoff game for the fourth time in Perry's five seasons at the school.

Perry said she didn't know much about Beverly Hills, only that it placed third in the Ocean League. When Estancia got through Beverly Hills, Perry said it was a big stress relief.

"We're in the double digits!" said Perry, referring to her team's win total.

The Eagles have recorded more ties than victories this season, but they have only lost twice in 24 matches. In the second round, Estancia (10-2-12) faces another team with just two setbacks.

Estancia plays La Mirada (14-2-4) on Tuesday in a matchup featuring two unbeaten league champions, the Eagles from the Orange Coast League and the Matadores from the Suburban League. Perry said a coin flip on Friday determines which team plays host to the game.

Under Perry, Estancia hasn't advanced out of the second round.

One coach who is familiar with the Eagles' next opponent was Beverly Hills Coach Ryan Franks. He told Perry what he thought about La Mirada before the two went their separate ways.

"La Mirada's a pretty good team," Franks said. "La Mirada's knocked me out of the first round three years. They always beat us in the first round."

This season, it was the Eagles' turn to eliminate Beverly Hills (12-10-2) from the first round. They blanked the visitors with stellar defensive play, limiting their attack from the outside.

When Beverly Hills managed to get down the sidelines and send crosses, Estancia's defense usually got to the ball first. Defenders Brandi White, Marlene Calderon, Shantel Romero and Sarah Leahy made it possible for goalkeeper Caitlin Leahy to record the shutout.

In the past, Leahy shared the keeper duties with Gianna Guyot, who also plays basketball at Estancia. Leahy now goes this distance.

"They're in the playoffs as well and they need her," Perry said of Guyot, whose basketball team plays a Division 3-A second-round game on Saturday. "I appreciate having [Guyot] around, but [Leahy's] been my starting goalkeeper for the last two years."

Leahy wasn't threatened for much of the evening.

Late in the match, Beverly Hills came close to producing the equalizer. On a corner kick, Kaela Reisfelt sent the ball into the middle. A teammate in traffic headed the ball toward the left, toward the goal line. For a few seconds, the ball freely rolled.

If Beverly Hills had a player in the vicinity, the match goes into overtime, but Hubbard was there to clear the ball out of danger.

"Kick it as hard as you can," Hubbard said is all she thought about doing.

By doing so, Hubbard's first high school season continues. She gets to play at least one more contest during her junior season.

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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