West Hills’ kickers howl with delight after winning major tournament title

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It’s a ways yet until the San Diego Section playoffs roll around in February but the West Hills High School girls’ soccer team would like to think it has the right stuff to earn an appearance in the elite gathering before the 2013-14 season comes to a close.

The Wolf Pack made an early season statement for inclusion after tipping the Rancho Buena Vista Longhorns in a shootout in Saturday’s Premier Division finals of the 34th Barons Girls Soccer Tournament at Sweetwater High School.

It’s a ways yet until the San Diego Section playoffs roll around in February but the West Hills High School girls’ soccer team would like to think it has the right stuff to earn an appearance in the elite gathering before the 2013-14 season comes to a close.

The Wolf Pack made an early season statement for inclusion after tipping the Rancho Buena Vista Longhorns in a shootout in Saturday’s Premier Division finals of the 34th Barons Girls Soccer Tournament at Sweetwater High School.

West Hills edged RBV, 5-4, in kicks from the mark after the teams had battled through a scoreless 80-minute regulation and four five-minute overtime periods.

A pair of freshmen came up big with upperclassmen-type performances for the Wolf Pack. Goalkeeper Rachel Thigpen recorded the championship game shutout while Sydney Gilbert scored the game-winning goal in the five-person shootout.

“Our goal this season is to make the playoffs; we didn’t make the playoffs last season,” WHHS coach Gary Trask said. “The way this game played out was exciting. No one knew which team would score first. For us, it was a total team effort.”

The Wolf Pack finished with three wins, one loss and two ties in its six games in the state’s largest high school girl’s soccer tournament (with more than 90 teams). West Hills kicked off tourney play Dec. 7 with a 3-2 loss to Grossmont Hills League rival Valhalla but did not lose again in the tournament.

The Wolf Pack played to a pair of 2-2 ties against Otay Ranch and Calexico on Dec. 10 and closed out pool play with a 3-0 victory against Vista on Dec. 12.

West Hills edged Hilltop, 3-2, in Saturday morning’s semifinals while RBV topped Valhalla, 4-2, to advance to the championship game.

Brittany Nguyen, Taylor Wirsig, Hinsseenee Regasa and Lauren Gudino each scored shootout goals to set up Gilbert’s game-winner.

Regasa received the Premier Division Most Valuable Player award.

Each team made its opening two kicks in the shootout tiebreaker. After Regasa gave the Wolf Pack a 3-2 edge, the Longhorns’ third shooter placed her shot over the top of the crossbar. The three remaining players in the shootout each scored for the final 5-4 score.

“I was nervous but at the same time excited,” Thigpen explained.

West Hills improved to 4-1-3 overall following a 1-1 tie at University City and a 3-0 win at Canyon Crest Academy in a pair of pre-tournament non-league matches.

Other varsity division champions in this year’s Barons tournament included Scripps Ranch (Open Division), Francis Parker (Unlimited Division), Our Lady of Peace (Limited Division) and Serra (Classic Division).

Junior varsity champions included Torrey Pines (Open Division), La Costa Canyon (Premier Division), Valhalla (Unlimited Division), Canyon Crest Academy (Limited Division) and Canyon Crest Academy-frosh (Classic Division).

Valhalla defeated Scripps Ranch, 3-2, to win the JV Unlimited Division title.

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