In the last three years, the only thing the Christopher High girls soccer team hasn’t accomplished is win a Central Coast Section championship. The Cougars have won three consecutive league titles and reached a CCS championship game two years ago before being bounced out in the first round last season.
With six seniors, coach Matt Oetinger said he would love to see what this year’s team could do in the postseason. The fifth-year Christopher coach might get his wish, as Covid case counts are falling and more people are getting vaccinated (CCS will likely decide by the end of the month in regards to having playoffs for the Season 2 sports).
“This is probably one of if not the strongest teams we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Oetinger said.
CHS opened its season with a 3-0 win over San Benito on April 6, with Aesha Sandoval, Taylor Mejia and Jaden Carrillo scoring the goals. Mejia, a junior defending/holding midfielder, has drawn high praise from Oetinger for literally being able to do it all.
“Taylor, quite frankly, is an amazing player,” Oetinger said. “She’s the best ‘6’ I’ve ever coached and probably the best ‘6’ in this league for quite a long time. She’s incredibly talented in every aspect of the game from defense, cutting angles, being dynamic on the ball, getting her head up, reading the play, opening up plays, moving forward, transitioning, switching sides and shooting.”
Fellow junior and midfielder Sandoval complements Mejia as the two are the “quarterbacks of the team per se,” Oetinger said, as they get possession and distribute the ball allowing the team to transition from offense to defense and vice versa.
“Aesha is a very powerful player,” Oetinger said. “She has a great shot, a great work ethic, is effective at shielding the ball and makes smart passes.”
Carrillo, a senior left wing, possesses a strong left-footed service sending the ball in and is another tireless worker on the field. Of course, any CHS soccer story has to involve junior striker Jenna Urrabazo, who was simply superb during a sophomore season in which she totaled 30 goals and eight assists (19 goals, six assists in league play). How dominant was Urrabazo?
“She outscored every team in our league,” Oetinger said. “It was mind-blowing.”
Now that teams will focus all of their resources to contain Urrabazo—who was the CCS Sophomore of the Year—Oetinger said the standout player can take her game to the next level by dealing with the extra attention and elevating the play of her teammates.
“Teams know she can score, so now it’s going to be up to Jenna to learn to deal with that sort of pressure and coverage and physically, mentally and emotionally being just as effective a player,” Oetinger said.
Urrabazo trained hard in the off-season and looks to have another strong season. Because teams will be so focused on stopping her, that should open up other avenues and opportunities for other players to score.
“The mentality everyone on the team has to have is they can score because they’re going to get chances,” Oetinger said.
Defensively, senior goalkeeper Jordan Anaya always gives the Cougars a chance to win with her ability to make all of the stops, while senior Hanna Crawford consistently gets the job done as the center back. Even though it’s already been over a year since top-seed CHS lost to Notre Dame-Belmont in the Division I playoffs—its first and only loss of the season—it can serve as a motivating factor especially since several players on this year’s team competed in that game.
“Having gone to the CCS championship game the year before, we all felt last year was going to be a repeat of that and we’d follow that up and win it,” Oetinger said. “Losing 3-2 in the first round was pretty brutal.”
Even then, Oetinger would like to think that he and assistant coaches Darlene DelCarmen and Alfredo Echauri have helped build a winning mentality, on and off the field. Their goal was for the players to play hard and win or lose, do it with class.
“Historically, we’ve been helped by some outstanding players that have come through here,” Oetinger said. “But now what I hope the coaching staff has managed to do is establish a culture for the program so now when we lose six seniors like we will from this year’s team, the freshmen and sophomores see how we do it, how the older girls practice, react in game situations and the high level of character displayed. Hopefully, that will help us deliver year in, year out, top level results.”