Facing a scoreless tie with seven minutes remaining in regulation of their Southern Section 3-A quarterfinal match, several bench-warming members of the Esperanza High School girls' soccer team began contemplating their chances if the match came down to a shootout--a one on one contest between shooter and goalie.
The players questioned the strength of their goalie, sophomore Tymerie Busser. They wondered whether the top Aztec scorers, Linda Lunceford and Maria De La Torre, were on top of their games, as they had yet to score.
They wondered what they'd do that night if they lost.
Needless worries all. Esperanza, the second-seeded team, defeated seventh-ranked Kennedy, 4-3, on penalty kicks Friday at Kennedy, extending its winning streak to 15 games.
With the victory, the Aztecs (22-1-2) advanced to Tuesday's 3-A semifinals where they will meet San Gorgonio, a 5-4 winner on penalty kicks over Royal, at a site to be determined.
Kennedy, which tied Esperanza, 1-1, in a preseason scrimmage in November, finished 16-6-0.
In the shootout, Kennedy's Kristi DeMont missed the first penalty kick. Her shot hit the top cross bar and bounced straight down and out of the goalie box. The next four Esperanza shooters--Chrissy Coppage, Lunceford, Denise Webb and Kristin Ferraro--got their shots past Kennedy goalie Missi Gyde, and the victory was clinched.
"I thought we were a better team than Kennedy today," Aztec Coach John Coppage said. "Though it could've gone either way."
That was evidenced throughout the match. As expected, both teams relied on heavy defensive pressure. There were few shots--Esperanza had nine, Kennedy three in the 80 minutes of regulation--as both teams suffered from miscues and hasty decisions.
In the first half, Esperanza possessed the ball more often than Kennedy, but the Aztecs couldn't capitalize. When Kennedy had the ball, it was much the same.
The second half was just as frustrating. Kennedy held possession for the first five minutes, but Esperanza held the Fighting Irish on four close-range shots.
With one minute remaining, Esperanza midfielder Kristi Aubuchon ran for an open breakaway down the center. But just before she pulled back for a what appeared to be a no-miss shot, the referee called offsides on the Aztecs and the ball was given to Kennedy.
Both 10-minute overtime periods were filled with frantic, but ineffective drives by both teams. The closest to scoring was Kennedy's Stacy Darin, who dribbled through three Esperanza players, and shot. It was stopped by an impressive face-first slide by Busser.
In the 3-A quarterfinals:
Laguna Hills 3, Alemany 0--Joanna Noble had one goal and two assists to lead Laguna Hills (19-5-1). Noble's crossing pass set up Claudia Smedes eight minutes into the match for a 1-0 lead. Leah Miller scored three minutes into the second half, again on a crossing pass from Noble, who then scored with three minutes left. Goalie Lynn Lambert made eight saves for Laguna Hills. Lisa Gonzalez had four saves for Alemany (16-6-1).