GIRLS’ SOCCER: Oaks Christian remains unbeaten in six section finals appearances, capturing first Div. IV title over Canyon Springs.
MISSION VIEJO – Ally Courtnall said she finally felt complete.
In a season in which the Oaks Christian girls’ soccer team was rarely at full strength – including the start of Saturday’s Southern Section Div. IV final – the Lions still managed to deliver a complete performance at Mission Viejo High.
Despite Kaycee Buckley arriving after kickoff because of an unspecified illness, top-seeded Oaks Christian demonstrated it still had plenty in reserve against No. 3 Canyon Springs.
Courtnall had a goal and an assist, becoming the Lions’ all-time postseason scoring leader with 15 goals, and Rachel Conners delivered the deciding goal in the 29th minute in a 2-0 victory, securing the Lions’ sixth championship – and second outright title – in nine years.
“To finish on top my senior year, it couldn’t be better,” said the UCLA-bound Courtnall, who increased her season totals to 23 goals and 14 assists, which boosted her career production to 70 goals and 37 assists.
“Us seniors, we had won a CIF championship, so we knew we had nothing to lose. But to win another one, I mean, what more could we ask for? We just want to try to enjoy these few more games that we have together (in the Div.III regional tournament) because we’re never going to have something as special as this again.” Courtnall
joined Jaci Mello and Brittani Gardella in securing a second division title, including a 3-1 victory over Downey in the Div.V final in 2008.
Despite a semifinal loss to South Torrance in 2009 and an overtime quarterfinal setback against Lakeside last season, Oaks Christian (23-2-1) was moved up to Div. IV, presenting a challenge for first-year coach Sebastian Alvarado, who took over for longtime coach and athletic director Jan Hethcock after guiding the Lions boys’ team the past decade.
But after a 2-1 second-round win over Culver City – in which Courtnall sat out because of an sprained MCL in her right knee – the Lions left no doubt as to who was the dominant team in the division during the past three matches, extending their winning streak to 17, while handing Canyon Springs (24-2-4) its first loss in 25 matches.
“It’s very rewarding because when you’re the No. 1 team, you’re expected to win every game,” said Alvarado, who became the school’s first coach to win section titles in multiple genders, joining his boys’ Div. V crown in 2008.
“They have to deal with other pressures in their lives outside of soccer, and (Saturday) with Kaycee was just another example. But we changed our lineup, made adjustments, and the girls went out and took care of business. Our three seniors definitely stepped up and played great.”
Especially Gardella, who shut down Crystal Lopez, who entered the final with 37 goals.
“Sebastian pulled me aside before the game and said, `(Lopez) is your player for the next 80 minutes.’ Right then, I made up my mind that she was not going to score,” Gardella said. “Jaci, Ally and I wanted to finish it off, just like we did our freshman year. We came together as a team and we pulled it out.”
Bianca Deardorff assisted on Courtnall’s goal and Sydney Socquet had four saves for the Lions.
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