Women's Soccer: Pirates familiar prey for Hawks

ORANGE — Internet directions to the Santiago Canyon Community College campus end with a left turn on Trails End. Recent history would suggest that Orange Coast College women's soccer coach Kevin Smith considers the command more foreshadowing than coincidence.

For the third straight season, OCC was eliminated from the Southern California Regional playoffs by the host Hawks, who have a history of mastery over the Pirates that spans well beyond the scope of Smith's memory.

This time, No. 2-seeded Santiago Canyon (20-1-2), which won its 10th consecutive Orange Empire Conference championship this season, won state titles in 2009 and 2006 and reached the state final the previous two seasons, as well as 2007, posted a 3-0 triumph in overtime.

The No. 11-seeded Pirates (14-5-4), who finished second in the OEC for the second straight year, battled the Hawks to a scoreless deadlock through 90 minutes of regulation, before the dam broke in overtime.

Santiago Canyon opened the scoring in the second minute of the first of two 15-minute overtime periods and led, 2-0, before the second overtime began. The Hawks added a goal on a penalty kick in the 115th minute and finished with a 28-10 advantage in shots.

OCC sophomore goalkeeper Emily Harrier made 16 saves, including 13 in regulation that helped keep the Pirates in the hunt.

But while Santiago Canyon had the bulk of the scoring chances, OCC had its share of shots that took the breath away from both fan bases.

"Our keeper made some saves; [a field player] blocked a ball off the goal line and we have a couple of chances that we hit off the crossbar [and goal post]," Smith said. "I think this team has done well to get to this point and gave themselves a chance to win the game, especially in regulation. I think we needed today to win in regulation."

The need was amplified by the toll of injuries to six key players this season, including two starters that were unavailable on Saturday and another who went down in the opening minutes on a hard fall and did not return. The physical demands of a third straight overtime playoff contest also did not work in the fatigued Pirates' favor.

Freshman forward Shellie Zito, who scored the game-tying goal in the final 40 seconds of overtime to create an opportunity for OCC to earn a second-round victory over Los Angeles Pierce in the second round on Tuesday, was removed from the field by ambulance after being tended to for 25 minutes on the field. Smith said Zito experienced tingling in her arms and legs that may have been attributed to a stinger caused by being hit in the head in the air, then jarring her neck and head when she fell to the grass.

Without Zito, and a handful of other contributors out injured, or hobbling with existing injuries, OCC made minimal substitutions, a contrast to the pattern employed by the Hawks.

"Their coach does a great job," Smith said of SCC 14th-year head man Ian Woodhead. "He recruits really well. He gets a lot of talented girls here and the key phrase there is a lot. They've won the conference from 2004 to this season, they are consistent and they have depth."

SCC, which utilizes speed and aggressive runs to create most of its scoring chances, has outscored opponents this season, 85-13. The Hawks defeated OCC, 2-0, in Costa Mesa on Sept. 20 and handled the Pirates, 3-1, at home on Oct. 22.

And though some theorized that OCC has not beaten the Hawks in their last 23 meetings, dating back to the start of SCC's conference title run in 2004, Smith believes the Pirates will end that streak of futility soon.

"This is two years in a row that we've finished second in the conference," Smith said. "We've improved gradually every year and the gap is closing. We took them to overtime this year [in the playoffs]. Next year, we want to push it up another notch and close that gap completely to where we can compete for a conference championship. I'd like to get on the other side of the [SoCal Regional playoff] bracket at least."

OCC sophomore defender Anmarie Moreno, the Orange Empire Conference Player of the Year, typified the Pirates' willingness to leave their utmost effort on the field.

Moreno's shot in the 32nd minute was saved just below the crossbar by SCC keeper Crystal Allen, who stopped five shots to preserve the team's 14th shutout and 12th straight win.

Freshman forward Karly Freeman caromed a header off the post and freshman defender Sandy Jimenez launched an arching shot from 30 yards in front that Allen had to leap high to keep from curving just under the crossbar.

Freshman defender Sarah Guest continually thwarted opposing attacks, as did Jimenez and Moreno, who cleared a would-be goal while standing in front of the goal line to keep things scoreless.

Offensively, sophomore Camille Kawley, back after a prolonged absence due to a foot injury, and Freeman were catalysts up front, while Moreno's numerous long throw-ins also enhanced the visitors' offense.

"She brings so many things to the table and it's not just about her ability to play soccer," Smith said of Moreno, who is considering continuing her soccer career at either Concordia University in Irvine or Cal State Dominguez Hills. "She is the epitome of what we are all about. We wouldn't have been second place in conference and we wouldn't have advanced to the third round of the playoffs without her. Any coach would love to have somebody like that."

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