Steele Canyon ‘Cougars’ score breakthrough victory in soccer final

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It looks to be a special Steele Canyon High School girls soccer team, and in particular for its nine seniors, after the Cougars kicked off the 2012-3 campaign by winning the Premier Division championship title at last weekend’s 93-team Barons tournament at Bonita Vista High School.

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

It looks to be a special Steele Canyon High School girls soccer team, and in particular for its nine seniors, after the Cougars kicked off the 2012-3 campaign by winning the Premier Division championship title at last weekend’s 93-team Barons tournament at Bonita Vista High School.

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

The Cougars defeated Rancho Bernardo, 1-0, in last Saturday’s tournament semifinals to advance to the championship game later that afternoon against the Eastlake Titans, the reigning Mesa League champions and a semifinalist qualifier in last season’s San Diego Section Division I playoffs.

Eastlake had defeated Steele Canyon, 2-0, in preliminary pool play on Dec. 5 but the teams played to a scoreless draw in the rematch. Because of impending darkness — the regulation portion of the match ended just after sunset — the game went directly to kicks from the mark (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,” 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 Steele Canyon. Only two Eastlake shooters — Blyss McCann and Kacie Morton — managed to bulge twine past Warner.

Janis scored the game-winner in KFM to break a 2-2 deadlock.
Senior Kiana Quarles scored the game-winning goal in the semifinal victory against Rancho Bernardo. Junior Sierra Nager drew the assist on the goal while Warner made six saves to record the shutout win.

The Cougars kicked off tournament play with a 2-1 victory against San Pasqual on Dec. 1 and followed with a 3-0 shutout win against Otay Ranch on Dec. 3.

Daoust and senior Kaylie Azevedo each scored goals against San Pasqual while Quarles drew assists on both goals.

Qualres recorded a goal and two assists in the win over Otay Ranch, while Perez registered a goal and assist and junior Natalie Cook scored once. Warner and senior Melora Lawson each played 40 minutes to share the shutout victory.

Jasmine Vasquez and Ang Boyd each scored goals for Eastlake in the teams’ final pool match. Jojo McCaskill and Sydney Rivera combined for nine saves to post the shutout win.

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. Quarles had three goals in the season opener.

Cleaves said his team would like to win its fourth consecutive lue title this season and also notch one more breakthrough moment by winning a CIF championship.

“Our group of seniors would like nothing better than to win another league title, which would be the fourth in a row for this group,” Cleaves said. “We’re also looking to break through in the CIF finals. We’ve been to the championship game before — we finished second (to West Hills in 2009) — but we haven’t won it yet.”
There’s always a first time, of course.

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