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Titans, Red Devils advance to Barons tourney finals Phillip Brents | Fri, Dec 14 2012 12:56 PM

South County teams didn’t fare too badly at all in this year’s 93-team Barons girls soccer tournament, the 33rd edition under the governance of tournament director Ron Pietila.

The Eastlake Titans (Premier Division) and Sweetwater Red Devils (Classic Division) both recorded runner-up finishes in their respective divisions while the Montgomery Aztecs qualified for the Classic Division semifinals.

“I thought there was going to be parity within a few years after we started up (in 1982),” Pietila said. “But here we are 30 years in and it finally looks like there is parity throughout the section — in the north, south, east and central.

“That comes because there are more girls playing soccer, and because more programs want to win now.”

The Titans certainly made a point last season for parity by advancing to the Division I semifinals, joining Bonita Vista which had advanced to the Division II semifinals.

Though none of the South County squads advanced to division championship games, the point was made clear.

“I think mental toughness was what really defined last year’s team,” EHS coach Scott Burress said. “So far this season, we have that same attitude. I don’t know if we’ll get to the semifinals again, but this team has that same mentality.”

The Titans went undefeated in pool play (two wins and one tie) to advance to last Saturday’s semifinals, where they topped the Poway Titans, 1-0, for the second time in the span of a week to meet the Steele Canyon Cougars in the championship match.

Eastlake had defeated Steele Canyon, 2-0, to wrap up pool play on Dec. 5 and, in the process, secure a playoff berth. But the Cougars won the finals rematch in a kicks- from-the-mark (KFM) tiebreaker after the teams battled through 80 minutes of scoreless play.

Because of impending darkness — the regulation portion of the match ended just after sunset — the title game went directly to KFM rather than sudden-victory overtime periods.

The Cougars, keyed by junior goalkeeper Jessica Warner’s three saves, defeated the Titans by a score of 3-2 in the tiebreaker to emerge as division champions.

Warner was named the division MVP.

“She’s cat-like — she’s amazing,” Steele Canyon head coach Cleaves said in regard to Warner’s performance. “She stopped three of the five shots in the tiebreaker and also came up with a terrific save in regulation to keep the game scoreless.”

Senior Sarah Lopez, sophomore Briana Daoust and senior Kailynn Janis each scored goals in the KFM tiebreaker for the Cougars. Only two Eastlake shooters — Blyss McCann and Kacie Morton — managed to bulge the twine behind Warner.

Janis scored the game-winner in KFM to break a 2-2 deadlock.

“We’ve come to this tournament so many times before but this year we finally got our breakthrough,” said Cleaves, who is in his 12th year coaching the team.

Steele Canyon had the better of play in last Saturday’s championship rematch, though the Titans came closest to scoring in regulation.

With about 10 minutes left, and Eastlake finally managing to turn up the offensive pressure, McCann broke through the Cougar defense to go one-on-one against Warner. But the Steele Canyon netminder managed to get a piece of McCann’s shot and the ball began rolling slowly toward the open net.

In a frantic series of events, another Eastlake player managed to slide into the ball just before it crossed the end line (the ball’s momentum was actually taking it just wide of the corner post).

But instead of redirecting the ball over the goal line, the Titan player’s shot caromed directly back in front of the net to Warner who, laying on her back, somehow managed to cradle the ball and keep it out of harm’s way.

It was an unbelievable display of luck — or was it fate?

The Cougars, who improved to 4-1-1 on the season after taming Eastlake in the tourney final, kicked off the season with a 3-0 non-league win against visiting Hilltop on Nov. 28.

Steele Canyon defeated Rancho Bernardo, 1-0, in the tourney semifinals  as senior Kiana Quarles scored the game-winning goal and Warner made six saves to record the shutout win.

The Titans (3-0-3) have yet to lose in regulation this season. In fact, Eastlake has yet to allow a goal in six regulation matches.

Gillian Stargensky scored the winning goal in Eastlake’s initial 1-0 verdict over Poway in the tournament opener on Dec. 1.

The Titans played to a 0-0 draw against San Pasqual in their second tournament match on Dec. 3 and used goals by Jasmine Vasquez and Ang Boyd to down the Cougars in their first match-up to close out tourney play.

EHS senior Jojo McCaskill, the 2011-12 Mesa League Goalkeeper of the Year, recorded five saves against both Poway and Steele Canyon and six against San Pasqual in pool play. She had nine saves in the semifinal rematch against Poway and five saves in the championship game.

Eastlake remains strong despite graduating half a dozen key players off last season’s Mesa League championship team.

“We’ve had some big shoes to fill,” Burress said. “So far, the girls have done a good job.

“The players who graduated were probably the best attacking players ever to come out of Eastlake. We play a similar style but have had to be a little more adaptive.”

Sweetwater dropped a 2-0 decision to Mission Bay in last Saturday’s Classic Division final after topping High Tech Chula Vista, 3-2, in the day’s earlier semifinal.

The Red Devils kicked off tournament play with a 2-1 loss to High Tech San Diego on Dec. 1 and followed with victories against Morse (4-0 on Dec. 4) and Foothills Christian (7-1 on Dec. 6) to advance to the playoffs.

Melissa Cruz scored Sweetwater’s first goal of the 2012-13 season in the loss to HTSD; she scored twice in the six-goal win over Foothills Christian.

Karina Quiros, Amy Gallarzo and Carissa Garcia each scored single goals in the semifinal victory against HTCV.

Jackie Maldonado and Hannah Cavanaugh both scored goals for Mission Bay in the division final.

Yvonne Clemente received the division MVP award, as chosen by Bucs coach Jorge Palacios.
SuHi coach Robert Bonilla seemed enthused by the progress made by his team over the course of its five tournament games.

“We improved every game,” Bonilla said. “We scored 15 goals in the tournament. We averaged three goals a game, which is the goal I set for our team, though we didn’t get it in the final.

“We made two big mistakes and that cost us in the championship game. But we came out and played better in the second half and I think we’re only going to get better.”

The Devils (3-2) finished runner-up to San Ysidro in last season’s South Bay League standings. The Cougars advanced to the Division I playoffs as the league’s automatic qualifier.

Bonilla sees his team in this season’s league championship race along with San Ysidro, Chula Vista and Southwest.

“It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be good,” Bonilla said, “It’s going to be exciting.”

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