Both teams make impressive runs in CIF playoffs.
Two teams from the area played for CIF Southern Section championships on Friday night. The Saugus girls soccer team faced Harvard-Westlake in the Division II championship. Little Vasquez High played for the Division VII girls soccer title against Alverno High.
Both teams made impressive runs through the playoffs and it’s hard to say which team was more impressive.
One ended its season with a championship, the other ended its season with its first loss in nearly two years. Saugus beat Harvard-Westlake, 2-1, to win its first CIF girls soccer title in school history. Vasquez lost to Alverno High, 3-1, its first loss since Nov. 30, 2007.
Heart-stopping for one, heartbreaking for the other. Here's a look at how the playoffs unfolded for both teams.
Saugus was in a three-way tie for first in the Foothill League in the last week of the season and fell to third place. Canyon beat Saugus 1-0 in the second-to-last game of league and knocked the Centurions out of first. Canyon and Valencia ended up sharing the Foothill League title, with Saugus entering the Division II playoffs as the third-place team. The route to the championship game for Saugus would be the most difficult of the three teams.
Vasquez is a freelance team, no league season whatsoever. The team has to schedule opponents with no league conflicts and piece together a season that prepares the players for the competition in playoffs. The girls from the little Acton high school put together a 40-game unbeaten streak and a 26-game winning streak over the past two seasons. They were 24-0 before the Division VII championship game.
Yes, some of the teams Vasquez beat during those streaks are not all that impressive. With all due respect to Discovery Prep, Montclair Prep, Hillcrest Christian and Grace Brethren, they are not in the same league as some of the teams Saugus played. Still, 26 straight wins against any teams is worthy of recognition.
That’s the funny thing. Vasquez has been able to fly under the radar, entering the CIF Southern Section playoffs unnoticed, without fanfare, for a team that hadn’t lost a game all year, hadn’t lost a game since the Dow Jones Industrial Average was above 10,000.
Vasquez didn’t slow down when playoffs started either. The team outscored its opponents 14-0 before the championship game. Emma Wright scored 35 goals and had 20 assists through the season. Emily Gordon posted 18 shutouts in goal, including four in playoffs. The three goals she surrendered to Alverno in the championship game were her first since New Roads scored on her on Jan. 26. Vasquez won that game 4-1.
As for the Saugus girls, their playoff games have been a little tighter. They blew out Highland, 8-1, to open the Division II playoffs. Every game since has been decided by one goal. There was the 1-0 win over top-seeded Flintridge Sacred Heart in the second round. There was the 1-0 win over Crescenta Valley in the quarterfinals. They needed two goals to beat Redlands in the semis. And of course in the title game, Saugus edged Harvard-Westlake, 2-1.
Erin Ortega and Jamie Molacek have been the heroes of late for Saugus. Ortega scored in three of Saugus’ playoff games, including the championship game and against Crecenta Valley in the quarters. Molacek has two goals in her last two games, scoring in the semifinal and final game. Ysabel Padron came up big for Saugus in the game against Flintridge Sacred Heart, scoring the only goal of that game.
Saugus and Vasquez continue on. They earned spots in the CIF Regional Tournaments starting Tuesday. Saugus faces Buchanan High from Fresno in the Division I bracket; Vasquez plays The Bishop's School from San Diego, the top-seeded team in the Division III tournament.
Choosing which team had the better season is near impossible. Perhaps it’s better to recognize that both teams have been impressive in their own rights.