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Simi Valley Stomps All Over Royal, 3-1

Soccer: Pioneers take control late in first half and maintain first place by defeating Marmonte rivals.


SIMI VALLEY — The Simi Valley High girls' soccer team allowed Royal brief stretches of hope Wednesday before putting its foot down and closing out its cross-town and Marmonte League rival, 3-1, at Simi Valley.

The Pioneers (14-5, 10-1 in league play), defending league champions, solidified their hold on first place and dropped Royal (11-9-1, 6-4) to fifth with the victory.

Westlake is in second place, Thousand Oaks in third and Agoura in fourth. The top three teams at the regular season's conclusion on Feb. 6 earn automatic Southern Section playoff berths.

The visiting Highlanders, who have not made the playoffs since the 1995-96 season, controlled play in the first 15 minutes.

But after misfiring on a couple of scoring opportunities, Royal found itself trailing, 2-0, at halftime.

Four minutes before the break, Simi Valley's Michelle Thuotte headed in a Mindy Gondrez corner for her second goal.

And with a minute to play in the half, Lori Tande took a pass from Valorie Annunziata and outraced Royal sweeper Andrea Clark before tapping the ball past goalkeeper Stephanie Wehr for her fourth goal.

Royal climbed back into the game by scoring three minutes into the second half. Alicia Bartholomew kicked in the rebound of a shot out of a goalmouth scramble while goalkeeper Sarah Swancutt sprawled on the turf.

The game was decided seven minutes later. Annunziata dribbled through several defenders on the right side of the penalty area, dished the ball off to Tande in the center of the box, and retrieved a return touch near the left post.

Holding off Highlander Rebecca Plummer with one arm, Annunziata knocked the ball past Wehr from five yards for her eighth goal.

Annunziata, a diminutive midfielder, had proclaimed at halftime that she would score a goal, Simi Valley Coach Mark Johnson said.

"She was angry about getting fouled and you don't want to make Valorie mad," Johnson said. "When she gets mad she doesn't pass, she comes right at you."

Simi Valley, in pursuit of its 10th league crown in Johnson's 18 seasons as coach, used the entire width of the field for its attack.

"That's the way a team should play soccer," Annunziata said. "That's what the field's there for and if you play all the way to the sideline, the more options you have."

Johnson said his team's wide-ranging approach is enhanced by the presence of many offensive threats.

"You never know who's going to score on this team," he said. "And if you switch the ball [from side to side] their defense gets ragged and you can suddenly overload one side."

Royal senior forward Camille Butcher eschewed any technical explanation for her team's fourth consecutive loss to the Pioneers.

"I think we gave up," Butcher said. "We stepped it up in the first part of the second half but then we got down again and only about half of us were giving 100%."

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