With the Christopher girls soccer team leading 1-0 in the opening minutes of the second half in Wednesday’s Central Coast Section Division III playoff match, Monte Vista Christian’s Jana Komposch got loose down the left seam and dribbled for a good 25 to 30 yards en route to the Christopher goal. But Cougars goalkeeper Jordan Anaya alertly came off her line to cut off the angle and made a tremendous save to deny the Mustangs the potential equalizer.
“It sounds silly to say, but that play might have changed the dynamic of the game,” Cougars coach Matt Oetinger said. “You’re up 1-nil and all of a sudden they have a 1v1 with your goalie.”
Top-seed Christopher (7-0-1) went on to score three goals after that to post a 4-0 win and advances to its second championship final in three years on Friday against San Benito, which won in penalty kicks over Gilroy. The No. 5 seed Mustangs (7-5-1) were thoroughly outplayed but still had a chance to tie things up on Komposch’s breakaway.
“Had we scored that one, the game could’ve been totally different,” Mustangs coach Morgan Miller said. “Their goalie made a great save, and Christopher has got a really talented roster with a lot of players who have been playing together for a long time. They’re by far the best team we’ve played all season for sure. We hung in there for a while, but it obviously didn’t go our way tonight.”
Christopher outshot MVC 33-2 and finished with a 6-0 advantage in corner kicks. Jenna Urrabazo and Kaiya Stewart scored two goals each, showing why they’re one of the most potent scoring combos in the entire CCS. Both of Urrabazo’s goals came on assists from Aesha Sandoval, who was seemingly all over the field helping Christopher dominate the time of possession.
“Aesha is just a presence in the middle and really good at cutting off players and shielding the ball,” Oetinger said.
Urrabazo displayed a Midas touch on both of her goals, slotting a shot to the bottom left corner in the 35th minute and scoring on a volley for her second tally of the game. Stewart was equally impressive on both of her scores. She accounted for the Cougars’ second goal with a quick turnaround shot from the penalty area after receiving a textbook pass from Cloey Turiello.
After Urrabazo’s second tally, Stewart scored the final goal of the game when she pounced on a rebound from point-blank range after Christopher had unleashed a barrage of shots in the 18-yard box. That capped a scoring spree in which the Cougars found the back of the net three times in a span of 14 minutes.
“We felt as a team we played together more than we have all season,” Oetinger said. “We put together a lot of combinations, a lot of one-touch passes, we were moving really well and jelling. One of the challenges of this bizarre short season that people don’t wrap their heads around is we’re normally used to having 20 games or more, so we have time to work through stuff and get players to jell with each other coming out of their various clubs and skill levels. Right now we’re on this super accelerated path, and you saw tonight they just clicked. It’s just fun to watch when it all comes together.”
Komposch and Shayna Lebovitz have led the team’s offensive attack all season, while Clarissa Alvarez and Maddie Pullen have also been solid and made a number of strong defensive plays against Christopher. Goalkeeper Alexa Malaspina is one of eight freshmen on the roster, and had she not played well, the score could’ve been even more one-sided.
“Alexa had a tremendous game, probably her best game of the year,” Miller said. “She’s made big saves for us all season.”
The Mustangs lose three key senior starters off this year’s team, but if the underclassmen develop, the Mustangs could have a sustained run of success in the coming years.
“Losing Shayna, Clarissa and Sara (Thornburg) will be big losses for us, but I think we should still be really competitive,” Miller said.
Christopher had everything working against MVC, its talent at literally every position evident. Hanna Crawford, Bethany Urrabazo, Jessica Schween, Taylor Mejia, Jaden Carrillo and Carlie Silva all made huge impacts with their ability to defend or possess the ball or send accurate passes at the perfect moment. Sandoval was particularly effective utilizing her high-arcing, over the top passes to the 18-yard box, creating a half-dozen scoring chances.
Sandoval also had several opportunities to score herself, including when her left-footed shot hit the bottom right corner post in the 31st minute. And Stewart has added another dimension to Christopher’s attack this season with her ability to control the ball, stop on a dime and create space for herself to get 1v1 opportunities.
“Kaiya is a force,” Oetinger said. “We’re so blessed to have her out here and she is such a pleasant girl to coach. She’s constantly trying to improve herself even at the high level she’s at, is hungry and always trying to figure out how she could get better.”
Despite the loss, Miller was pleased with the team’s season.
“I’m extremely proud of the girls because I don’t think we ever had a game where we had more than one sub available,” she said. “It was a rough season from an injury standpoint and having enough healthy players, but the girls persevered to have a strong season.”