SOCCER: Watsonville holds off Christopher for league title

Christopher's Anita Lopez battles for control of the ball with

Paola Renteria scored four goals, including three within the first 19 minutes of the game, and despite a second half tilted in favor of Christopher High, Watsonville defeated the Cougars 4-2 to wrap up a third straight Monterey Bay League girls soccer title in the mud and mire Tuesday in Gilroy.

An opposite outcome would’ve given the Cougars (11-6-1 overall, 8-2-1 MBL) a share of the league crown in just their second season at the varsity level. All is not lost for second-place CHS, though, which entered their home finale already holding an automatic bid into the Central Coast Section playoffs.

“Our goal this year was to make CCS, and we achieved that,” CHS head coach Janae Pimentel said. “We will keep getting better. It takes time.”

With one game remaining, Watsonville is the only team to have beaten the Cougars in league this season. CHS wraps up the regular season Thursday at Pajaro Valley and will find out where it is seeded into the playoffs this weekend.

The Wildcatz’s (12-5-2 overall, 11-1 MBL) fast start wasn’t surprising, however it was contradictory to the field conditions – which resembled a thick, mud soup, especially in the center of the pitch. No matter the force behind a kick, once the ball touched down – with a thud and a splash – near midfield that’s where it stayed. Footing became an issue as players slipped and slid, but for the most part, navigated the terrain.

Renteria outraced a pair of CHS defenders to the right edge of the penalty area and delivered a far-post, right footer for a 1-0 Watsonville lead in the 11th minute. Renteria had space on a similar play and made it 2-0 in the 14th minute. It was 3-0 Renteria and Watsonville five minutes later.

Renteria tallied eight times in two games versus the Cougars – having four in the teams’ first contest last month.

“She’s good,” Pimentel said. “She had four shots and they were all goals. Most girls wouldn’t make those shots. Our defense broke down and didn’t play that well in the beginning.”

Aside from allowing Renteria’s three goals in a nine-minute span, the Cougars kept pace with their elite MBL counterparts. That became more evident in the second half, as the Cougars, facing the 3-0 halftime deficit, instead of folding, made it a priority to keep themselves in the game. And after falling behind 4-0 via Renteria’s fourth eight minutes into the second half, CHS dictated play the rest of the way.

“It was really important for us not to give up, because we fell like we kind of gave up the last time we played them,” Emma Morley said, her socks speckled and white jersey caked with mud. “We kept playing.”

The Cougars got one back in the 63rd minute. Alejandra Garcia found herself on the receiving end of a far post cross and she one-timed the offering into the net. On a corner kick in the 70th minute, Paulina Llamas set up Garcia again, serving a perfect pass to the back post and Garcia’s right foot – a mirror image of the first score.

“I knew we could score on them, but things were a little tough with this mud,” Pimentel said. At that point, it was about pride. You have to want to win and want to score. They came out more confident in the second half.”

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