Christopher has what it takes to win MBL

Allie Echauri has been a key player for Christopher High this season.

The Christopher High girls soccer team showed plenty of promise in a 2016-2017 season that concluded with a 1-0 loss to eventual Central Coast Section Division I co-champion Santa Clara in the opening round. A season later, the Cougars are expected to live up to soaring expectations after they returned their entire startling lineup—a rarity in high school sports—from last year’s squad.

Christopher plans on making history this season, as the girls soccer team has never won the Monterey Bay League’s Gabilan Division.

“We’ve made it very clear that our goal is to win the Gabilan Division,” said Cougars coach Matt Oetinger, whose team improved to 7-4-1 overall and 4-1-0 in division action after a 4-1 win over Gilroy Wednesday. “We think it is an attainable goal. Beyond that, going deeper into CCS is also goal, and quite frankly, winning CCS is a goal.”

It’s no secret that everything starts and begins with Aurea Martin, a brilliant junior striker who scored five of the team’s first six goals in league play, including a hat trick in a 4-0 win over San Benito on Jan. 10.

“She is an extremely high level player, and we are lucky to have her in our program,” Oetinger said. “It’s not much of a secret that she is our MVP so far this season.”

But Christopher is far from a one player team. Jackie Sanchez, a junior center back, has been one of the team’s most reliable players. The stability was needed early in the season when the Cougars endured a bit of a rough patch playing some of the premier teams in the section.

“She was somebody no matter what the situation was and even in our worst games was a standout player in the back for us this year.”

Freshman Jordan Anaya has been precocious in her play as the goalkeeper. Skill-wise, Anaya has all the tools. It’s the leadership aspect the position demands that Anaya continues to improve on.

“Her struggle so far—and I think she has worked past it—is the social aspect,” Oetinger said. “There is that social aspect of, “Geez, I’m a freshman and I shouldn’t be telling sophomores and juniors where they should be going.’ But that’s exactly what she should be doing. She wasn’t comfortable at first, but she’s worked through it and we’re a better team for it. We’re lucky to have her for four more years.”

Juniors Natalie Smith and junior Allie Echauri have been ultra dependable players as center midfielders. Oetigner raved about their skill level, high work rates and fitness level that allow them to play strong all match long. Isabel Schween, a senior center back, has earned a scholarship to compete at Texas A&M—in equestrian.

Clearly a unique talent, Schween has given the team plenty of energy and skill on the pitch.

Christopher opened the season with losses to Notre Dame-Belmont and Homestead, and a couple of weeks later suffered a 3-0 defeat to Live Oak. All three losses were to strong squads, and Oetigner purposely scheduled tough teams for the sole purpose of preparing the Cougars for league and CCS.

“It was to challenge the team and our level of play,” Oetigner said. “Even though we returned our starting lineup, everyone doesn’t come back exactly as they left. There was a process we had to work through, and a lot of that was worked through in the preseason (non-league). We’re still working through it, but we’ll get to where we want to be.”

Christopher had arguably its worst game of the season in a 4-0 loss to Salinas on Jan. 5, the team it is tied with atop the Gabilan Division standings. However, the Cougars are confident they’ll win the rematch on Jan. 31, a match that will go a long way in determining the division champion.

“We clearly hope that Salinas game was an aberration,” Oetinger said. “I think when we see them again at home, we stand a significant chance of winning that game.”

It’s also likely the Cougars could reign supreme atop the Gabilan not just this year but next season as well, as they graduate only four seniors off this year’s squad.

“We’ve got an extremely talented sophomore and junior class in the hopper right now,” Oetigner said. “Add the freshmen and seniors who are also contributing at a high level, and hopefully that is a good equation for us moving forward.”

One of the key pieces is Martin—look for a profile on Martin in a future Dispatch edition—a dynamic and talented player who can alter the outcome of a game with one pass or shot.

Cougars junior Aurea Martin gets loose for a breakaway goal against San Benito earlier this season. Photo by Robert Eliason.

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