The Westridge varsity girls’ soccer team did everything it could to win a CIF Southern Section title.
The Tigers controlled the ball, generated more scoring opportunities than and completely shut down Los Amigos of Fountain Valley at Garden Grove High School last Friday. However, they couldn’t get that final touch to get the ball into the back of the net in regulation or overtime, allowing the Lobos to defeat Westridge, 4-1, in the Division 5 championship.
“I just feel like we couldn’t put it in the back of the net,” said Westridge head coach Tulio Marroquin. “It was going to be a game of long balls, and we knew that coming into it. It was going to be a physical match. Credit to them, they knew what to do and did it well. We had every chance from every angle and just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
The Tigers (12-7-4 overall record) generated the best opportunities behind forwards N-Dea Goodwin and Kaitlin Zareno, who had recorded an assist or scored in each playoff match.
Zareno was fearless on the right wing, taking on countless defenders and sending balls into the box.
“[Zareno] is definitely a spark plug,” Marroquin said. “She started playing with more confidence, and that’s what helped us a lot. Speed is something you can’t teach. You either have it or you don’t.”
Goodwin was the Tigers’ playmaker, often winning the ball at midfield and dribbling up the field to draw double coverage and lacing perfect through balls for teammates.
“She’s been our horse through the entire run,” Marroquin said of Goodwin. “I’ve asked a lot from her and you can see the tired legs and the other forwards as well. They’re just exhausted. Despite that, we went through has much as we could and she gave us everything she had, like everybody else.”
The effort of the Los Amigos (18-3-2 overall) backline was just as good after the coaching staff opted to go more defensive to counter the Tigers’ speed and skill on offense.
Following an injury to starting goalkeeper Andrea Mendoza-Reyes, Lobos head coach Cassidy Abad moved playmaker Mya Rodriguez between the posts and Vidalia Abarca, the team’s biggest threat on offense, to sweeper.
It was an adjustment that solidified the defense as Abarca often cleared through balls and thwarted most of the Tigers’ best opportunities.
The sacrifice paid off for Abad as her team kept Westridge’s talented offense at bay through the remainder of regulation and two overtime periods.
“That was our strategy,” Abad said. “We went in defensive to determine the speed of their players and quickly proved they were extremely fast.
“We know Vidalia can produce goals on really hard teams, but the question is, ‘Could she have produced more than what she could have stopped?’”
Despite the loss, the Tigers earned a No. 5 seed in the CIF State Division 4 playoffs and faced Los Angeles Rivera in the first round. Should Westridge win, it would move on to face host La Salle today at 4 p.m.
“We weren’t expected to be here,” Marroquin said. “We just came out of nowhere and we got hot at the right time. We wish we would have been in first place, but that’s the way it goes. We got to move on and look at state.”