Coming off its first Central Coast Section playoff championship in program history, the Christopher High girls soccer team isn’t off to its customary fast start to begin a season.
No championship hangover here, just a couple of injuries and club soccer and field hockey showcase events that have delayed the arrival of some of the team’s best players. Once the Cougars have their full roster—hopefully in time for their first Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division match on Jan. 12—they should have a premier team that once again can contend or win a league championship.
“We’re excited about this group and once we get everyone in place, we’re confident we’ll get some good results,” said Matt Oetinger, whose team was 0-2-1 through its first three matches. “But we won’t be handed anything and the reality is even at full strength, nothing comes easy and nothing is promised. We’re certainly not going to win any games by simply walking on the field because we’re Christopher. It’s going to take grinding it out in every match to replicate the success we’ve had in the last four years.”
Even though Christopher graduated some key players off last year’s title team, the cupboard is far from bare. In fact, with returning players such as Cloey Turiello, Skyller Turiello, Carlie Silva, Aesha Sandoval, Jessica Schween and Taylor Mejia, the Cougars have an experienced core group that knows how to win and have thrived in big-game situations.
Add in two of the best strikers in the area in Jenna Urrabazo and Kaiya Stewart—the two currently aren’t on the team but could join the squad after a club showcase in early January—and CHS won’t be lacking for talent, that’s for sure. Oetinger said the absence of some of the regular starters early in the season has given other players an opportunity to gain on-field experience, something they wouldn’t normally have gotten had the team been at full strength from the get-go.
“The silver lining is some girls are getting heavy minutes out of necessity and have taken that opportunity to show us what they can do in certain situations,” Oetinger said. “Emma Davis at center back, time will tell, but she may have earned herself a starting position.”
Mejia is a dynamic player who makes sound decisions and always plays a vital role in the team’s possession game.
“Taylor is clearly a very important part of our team in what we are trying to accomplish and someone we need in order to accomplish it,” Oetinger said.
Silva plays the wing position, moves well with the ball and off the ball, Skyler Turiello is a rock-solid defender and Cloey Turiello is perhaps the most versatile player on the team.
“Cloey can play anywhere which is an amazing attribute to have and makes her very valuable to us,” Oetinger said.
Ever since a turning point midway through her sophomore year, senior midfielder Sandoval has been one of the team’s most reliable players. She consistently wins 50-50 balls and scored a goal in each of the first three games.
“She’s been the major bright spot in the season so far,” Oetinger said. “We may move her around as the season progresses, but it’s difficult to formulate a long-term plan without ever having all your pieces there at the same time.”
The post-Jordan Anaya era has begun and Oetinger is optimistic the team is in good shape at goalkeeper. Ella Donohue and Yepez Zara have been sharing minutes in goal this season, while another newcomer, freshman Ella Oetinger, has emerged as a starter at outside back. Ella happens to be the daughter of Matt and like many of her CHS teammates plays for a high-level club team.
Junior striker Rainelynn Antipuesto and sophomore winger/central midfielder Aubrey Archuleta are also impact newcomers.
“They’ve come in and done very well for us and have contributed substantially in the last few games,” Oetinger said.
The Cougars are in an atypical position as they will go into their usual winter break with a sub-.500 record. However, Oetinger is confident the best is yet to come. He usually gives the team some time off coinciding with the school’s winter break so players can rest up mentally and physically as many of them are coming off club soccer and field hockey seasons.
“The hope is that the two weeks will be a good time to let their bodies heal, rest and hopefully we’ll go into the regular-season with a full roster,” he said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.