La Cañada High girls' soccer knocked off by Nipomo

In need of a goal, the La Cañada High girls’ soccer team turned to Kara Lankey — something it’s grown accustomed to doing all season.

The Spartans’ captain put her team on the board in the second half, cutting into a two-goal deficit La Cañada found itself behind in its CIF Southern Section Division V wild-card game at Nipomo High on Tuesday.

“Kara is a good leader and the girls look to her for support and guidance,” La Cañada High Assistant Coach Anya Rosen said. “That’s what she brought today.”

It wasn’t enough, though. The Titans halted whatever momentum the Spartans gained on the goal from Lankey, who was playing forward instead of her regular position of center defender, when they rattled off two more goals en route to a 4-2 victory.

Nipomo will now travel to La Quinta (17-4-4) to take on the Desert Valley League champion.

Megan Decker capped the scoring for La Cañada (11-5-3) with a late tally of her own.

Rosen said conditions were tough Tuesday. The Spartans drove more than three hours to Nipomo (12-9-3) for the showdown between the third-place teams from the Rio Hondo and Los Padres leagues, respectively.

“The girls worked really hard, but it was tough because it was on a grass field and there was a little wind and we’re away from home and have been traveling all day,” Rosen said. “As the game moved forward the girls’ intensity improved.”

Still, La Cañada head Coach Louie Bilowitz said before the game its offense wouldn’t be able to keep pace with a high-scoring game like it found itself in Tuesday.

La Cañada advanced to the CIF-SS quarterfinals last year with its run ending with a 4-0 loss to top-seeded Hemet. The core of that team — midfielder Talia Saleh, goalkeeper Haley Austin and forward Morgan Rittichier — all graduated, though.

While La Cañada’s trip to the playoffs was shorter than hoped, Rosen said she felt it’s a good experience for a young team — nine juniors, eight sophomores and two freshmen — that graduates just one senior, Lankey.

“I think this was a really good, strong rebuilding year for the team,” Rosen said. “I think that the team was very small in size, but over the course of the season kind of proved to themselves they can fight against teams that are a lot larger with quickness and skill.”

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