Story and photos by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal
LONG BEACH – Lined up against a bigger, faster, and stronger opponent, the La Habra girls’ soccer team knew that this matchup against Long Beach Wilson was going to be a tough challenge.
Unfortunately, Wilson asserted its dominance and knocked out the Lady Highlanders with a 5-0 victory in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs.
“It wasn’t that they weren’t marked up, it was that the girl was literally just six inches taller than our tallest girl,” said Matt Sanger, La Habra head coach.
Wilson (14-7-3) struck quickly and in bunches, enabling their size and physicality to gradually wear down the Lady Highlanders. The Lady Bruins scored their first goal in the 12th minute on a header from a cross into the box.
“Without being able to climb on top of them we can’t defend a girl who’s so much taller than us,” Sanger said.
Though left back Catalina Norris timed her jump well, she was no match for the taller defender who beat her to the ball and ignited the Wilson attack.
Minutes later, still recovering from the previous goal, Wilson passed a ball into the middle leaving it one-on-one with a defender. The Wilson forward beat her defender and sent a rocket through the net.
The Lady Highlanders (11-10-2) responded after the rough start, fortifying their back line and preventing their opponent from capitalizing on their crossing passes.
During halftime, Sanger looked to inspire his team, reminding them to stay resilient.
“The girls had been able to get themselves up to want to compete and fight back,” Sanger said.
However, again close to fifteen minutes into the second half, another goal caught the net, leaving the Lady Highlanders in need of a miracle.
After a tremendous week to close the regular season, senior Brooke Mays was unable to find room to breathe. The forward was blanketed by three defenders while her teammates battled to secure possessions.
Some bright spots lie in the development of many up-and-coming players however.
“We have a lot of freshman and sophomore’s that are going to be coming back that got to play in a first CIF game against a really good team,” Sanger said.
All season, the Lady Highlanders goal keeper Katelyn Phinney pulled off clutch saves to keep her girls inspired. The defensive front has been stabilized by Jessica Garcia and Becca Hernandez who have started every game down the stretch.
Catalina Norris emerged as a starter and a fearless defender. Samiya Washington has proven to be a competitive midfielder who fights for every 50-50 ball possible.
Finally, Darriell Franklin will be able to emerge as one of the most dangerous attackers in the league with her speed and touch.
“Hopeful for the future,” Sanger said, “we have potential to go far in CIF, but its always sad to see a good season end.”