Talk about burnishing a legacy: the 2021-2022 Christopher High girls soccer team capped the greatest season in program history with a 1-0 win over Pioneer High in the CIF NorCal Regional Division IV championship match on March 5.
The Cougars won league, section (again) and NorCal titles in a truly historic season. When it was over, the emotion was palpable. Coaches and players hugged, and shouts of joy were mixed in with tears, especially for the six seniors on the team that played the final game of their high school careers.
One of those seniors, striker Jenna Urrabazo, reflected on all of the indelible memories she’s had with the team. Urrabazo scored the game’s lone goal in the 76 minute.
“Despite the win, I’m so sad because this is the last time I’ll be playing with this team, and I love them so much,” she said. “From me going through a bumpy freshman year through it all to an amazing senior year, it’s been a ride. I’m so grateful that everything happened. All the things the coaches have given me, all the advice, all the inspiration, the inspiration from my teammates and all the laughs they’ve given me. I’m just so glad I’ve had these four years to connect with them.”
Although the time of possession was fairly even, the top seed Cougars (15-5-1) were the far more dangerous team, outshooting Pioneer 19-8 and finishing with a commanding 6-1 advantage in corner kicks. However, the No. 3 seed Mustangs (15-6-5) had the great equalizer in a next level goalkeeper who repeatedly came off her line to stuff several golden CHS scoring chances.
In the end, however, Urrabazo or Kaiya Stewart was going to find a way to score, just like they have all postseason. Cougars coach Matt Oetinger marveled at the buildup to Urrabazo’s goal. It all started with Urrabazo backtracking to the team’s defensive third.
She made the defensive play, got rolled, but immediately made a beeline toward the team’s attacking third. A Pioneer player had such a clear advantage that as Urrabazo approached, it couldn’t even be considered a 50-50 ball—more like a 40-60 CHS disadvantage.
But in what has to be considered one of her greatest plays given the ramifications, Urrabazo positioned herself perfectly and created a deflection that popped up high in the air behind the Pioneer player and straight to Urrabazo, who never stopped moving toward the Pioneer goal.
As Urrabazo entered the right side of the 18-yard box, she deftly sidestepped the Pioneer goalkeeper before slotting a shot into the net. She put her hands on her head in disbelief, stunned just like everyone else at what had just transpired.
“I didn’t even know that girl was going to kick it,” Urrabazo said. “I got in front of it and just saw the net and knew I had to shoot it. It happened so fast I was in shock.”
Oetinger marveled at Urrabazo’s determination on the play.
“Jenna ran the entire length of the field and was gassed,” he said. “It’s just hard work.”
Despite unleashing a torrent of shots on goal, CHS managed to find itself in a precarious position with the game scoreless late. That’s because Pioneer had two shots that hit the post in the second half and a breakaway shot that Cougars goalkeeper Ella Donohue saved moments before Urrabazo’s goal.
Donohue made some key stops by positioning herself well. Meanwhile, the Pioneer goalkeeper stuffed close-range shots from Stewart, Urrabazo, Ashlyn Platt, Carlie Silva and Rainelynn Antipuesto. Time and again, CHS had rapid-fire shot sequences in the penalty area only to be turned away.
“That goalie is a really good goalie and she kept us in check,” Oetinger said. “But like I’ve been saying, teams can’t hold Kaiya and Jenna down. But you just never know how many opportunities you’re going to get, especially with a goalie like that. It’s one of those things where it felt like we were going to get that goal, but you just never know.”
Playing its sixth game in 10 days, everyone who was on the field had to make an impact. In addition to the aforementioned CHS players, the team also received strong play from Skyler Turiello, Ella Oetinger, Emma Davis, Taylor Mejia, Jessica Schween, Kayla Puga and Sophie Gonzalez.
“I definitely think we had them, but the fact we were so tired and our leg muscles so exhausted, I’m just glad we had the grit to leave everything out there on the field,” Urrabazo said.
The victory was a storybook ending to an incredible season. This CHS squad has accomplished more and gone further than any sports team in school history—fall, winter or spring.
“I told the girls you can’t write it up any better than this,” Oetinger said. “The six seniors, what they accomplished in their four years, this team, what they accomplished this year with all the injuries we had, it’s unbelievable. It’s a really special group of girls, a really special team. I’m really speechless at this point. I’ll never forget this moment, our coaches, our players, this team.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]