The Christopher High girls soccer team made history on Feb. 14, clinching an outright Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division championship for the first time in program history. A tough and gritty 2-1 win over Alvarez in the regular-season finale gave the Cougars a 10-1-1 league record—and memories that will last a lifetime.
For players like junior Alessandra Echauri, the title represents the program’s potential.
“I think we have six juniors on the team, and our main goal was to show the freshmen and sophomores that a small team from Gilroy has the possibilities to do great things,” she said. “We wanted to set a standard for the young ones, and leave a legacy for the incoming classes and teams.”
Christopher added to its already impressive season with a 2-0 win over Leland in the Central Coast Section playoff opener Wednesday. The No. 6 seed Cougars (13-4-2) advance to a quarterfinal match against No. 3 seed Leigh on Saturday.
“We’re really excited and believe we can go far in this tournament,” Echauri said. “We’ve come this far already, and why not go a little farther.”
Against Alvarez, Christopher junior striker Aurea Martin scored both of the team goals—her 25th and 26th goals of the season. Martin also finished the regular-season with 10 assists, giving her an impressive 62 points.
The Cougars’ only loss in league came to Salinas on Jan. 5, a 4-0 drubbing. However, the teams finished in a 0-0 draw in the rematch three weeks later, and Christopher went a combined 10-0 against the rest of the squads in the division. The Cougars did it with an exciting brand of soccer that featured a possession-type game, crisp passing and dynamic players at nearly every position, spearheaded by Martin and freshman goalkeeper Jordan Anaya.
“Our goalie has found a place on this team and has put together some pretty special performances, especially against Hollister,” Christopher coach Matt Oetinger said. “She has really been phenomenal, and having someone like that in goal clearly helps in the team’s success.”
Echauri said one of the defining moments of the season was the scoreless draw with Salinas, a team that has given the Cougars fits over the years.
“When we lost to them the first time we played them, we lost a little bit of confidence,” she said. “In between the time of that loss and the next time we played them, we had to figure some things out, and once we did, we started to really believe in ourselves.”
Echauri plays a key role as a center midfielder, acting as a link between the defenders and forwards.
“My role is to connect them so we’re all in sync and have a good tempo of play,” she said. “I want to distribute the ball to the forwards and create opportunities for them to score, but at the same time have the ability to come back and help the defense out.”
Christopher posted an impressive nine shutouts in league play, and Oetinger credited Anaya along with defenders Jackie Sanchez, Katie Tomasello, Jessica Bright and Isabel Schween for leading the defensive performance.
“Jackie has probably been our most dependable and strongest defender,” Oetinger said. “Jackie is one of those glue girls, and a player who really does her talking through her stellar play. The whole back four has done a good job.”
Even though the players knew they had clinched the title after beating Alvarez, the celebration was rather subdued. Some of that had to do with the way the team played—“It wasn’t our best game of the season,” Oetinger said—and some of it had to do with winning with class and not celebrating wildly on another team’s home field.
In the postgame gathering, Oetinger handed each player a long stem pink rose—it was Valentine’s Day, after all—but the gesture was more symbolic of the team playing for the love of the game.
“All of a sudden it hit them that we just did something no other team at Christopher has ever done,” Oetinger said.
In addition to excelling on the field, Christopher has achieved at a high level in the classroom as well. Echauri said the team’s GPA is 3.8, and individually she has a 4.2 GPA that includes three Advanced Placement classes. One thing is for certain: The Cougars are set up to be even better next season, with several players returning including a freshmen class that will continue to mature and progress.