GIRLS SOCCER WINS D2 CIF CHAMPIONSHIP!
LANDON NEGRI / STAFF WRITER
CORONA " No longer will anyone be able to call Corona Santiago's girls soccer team the best to never win a title, or a great team that's never done much.
On Saturday night, they really did it, and did it with authority.
Seniors Valerie Santana and Carly Gamble each scored second-half goals as second-seeded Santiago won the first CIF-Southern Section girls soccer championship in school history with a 2-0 triumph over top-seeded Westlake Village Oaks Christian in the Division 2 final at Corona High School.
The victory for Santiago (23-1-8) ended a frustrating recent run in which it fell in penalty kicks in the 2010 section final to Riverside King and then subsequently lost four consecutive CIF-SS quarterfinals.
That was all lifted off this program in the moments following Saturdayâs conclusion, when the Santiago players rushed to the home side of the stands and celebrated with their fans, and then again leapt for joy on the pitch as they were presented with the championship plaque.
"It's indescribable," said senior forward Alyssa Alvarez. "It's the best feeling ever to work this hard, and to want it this bad for the past three years. It's a great feeling to know that you and your team did it."
Sharks coach Mike Fleming said: "I'm just pleased for them because I won a title as a player, and I want them to know the feeling to be able to say they're the first. Twenty years from now, they can come back and look at the banner hanging in the gym and tell their kids about it. It's special."
What they'll remember is a match that was relatively uneventful until the Sharks took control in the second half.
Santana broke the scoreless tie in the 50th minute when she took a pass and spotted a clearing in goal near the far post and fired. The shot hit the post, and then like a side-pocket billiards shot, it ricocheted into the net for a 1-0 lead.
"The post is always my friend, for sure,â the University of San Francisco-bound Santana said with a smile," and I'm glad it was tonight."
The Sharks began mounting opportunities in the second half, when they had a 6-1 advantage in shots on frame.
In the 68th minute, they got the all-important insurance goal off Maddy Haro's corner kick, when the ball was put inside the box, and in a scrum, Gamble booted in a score for a 2-0 lead.
"It was kind of just bouncing around," said Gamble, a Northern Arizona commit," and I was just able to get a foot on it."
Twelve minutes later, the Santiago faithful counted down the final seconds, and the Sharks had their title, culminating a section playoff run that included PK victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
Santiago downed a storied program that won or shared championships in all eight of its previous finals appearances. Saturday's loss, in fact, was the first playoff shutout of the Lions (19-2-0) in 35 matches, dating to 2009. The Sharks also did a nice job containing junior Sam Bruder, a USC commit who has scored 22 goals.
"I thought physically, it wasn't our game today," Oaks Christian coach Sebastian Alvarado said. "They brought it to us. They won every 50-50 ball."
Santiago will learn its CIF Southern California Regional matchup " and the Sharks could get a home match" today when the pairings are released. That will be a cherry on top of a long-awaited and long-sought championship for the south Corona school.
"We definitely were determined" Gamble said. "We wanted this. We haven't wanted anything more."