Villa Park ends long drought, wins Century League title
ORANGE- The transformation of the Villa Park girls’ soccer team into one of the county’s elite squads now includes a Century League title on their resume.
Senior Cassidy Hodson scored the match-winning goal in the second half, as the Spartans clinched the league title with a 1-0 victory over the Canyon Comanches Monday at El Modena High.
“Winning the league title means everything to the girls and the coaches,” Hodson said.
With the win, Villa Park (17-5-4; 10-1) claims the program’s first league championship since 1988. The Spartans are also the first team other than Esperanza or Canyon to win the Century League title since El Dorado in 2006-07.
They will close out the regular season Wednesday against Esperanza, who handed the Spartans their only league defeat (1-0) on January 15th.
“We know Canyon is well-coached and was going to give us their best,” Spartans coach Brent Whitfield said. “We were so close to winning this last year and our first goal for this season was to win league.”
Both teams produced early scoring chances in the first 10 minutes of the match. In the fifth minute, Spartans sophomore Bethany Sutherland had a shot blocked by Comanches sophomore goalie Mia Hummel.
One minute later, Comanches freshman Taylor Rasmussen had a shot on frame that sailed wide of the goal.
Villa Park had a golden scoring chance in the 14th minute when Hodson eluded the defense and dribbled into the box. But Hummel stepped in front of the ball to prevent the goal.
Canyon’s best scoring chance of the half came in the 17th minute. Off a pass from senior Jessica Cadreau, fellow senior Camila Espindola-Villarino found open space and uncorked a shot that hit the near post.
Villa Park controlled possession throughout most of the first half and out-shot Canyon 11-2. But Hummel helped keep the match scoreless at the intermission with 11 of her 13 total saves.
She punctuated her strong play in the first half with diving saves on a shot by Spartans senior Melita Sutherland in the 24th minute and Hodson in the 32nd minute.
“Mia was outstanding and kept us in the game in the first half,” Comanches coach Walter Camargo said.
Villa Park continued to control possession early in the second half and took the lead in the 54th minute. Off a failed clearance, Hodson managed to gain possession in the attacking third and elude the Comanches defense on a run toward the goal. Hummel moved up to try and stop the shot, but Hodson sent a low bouncer past her and into the back of the net for her team-leading 16th goal of the season.
“I remember getting the ball and trying to stay composed because Mia (Hummel) is a good goalie,” Hodson said. “I looked up, shot it, and just tried to keep it low.”
Whitfield acknowledged confidence that Hodson would finally break through for a big goal in the match.
“Cassidy (Hodson) has been clutch for us all season and all she needed was one chance,” Whitfield said. “She made it happen and it was a great finish.”
The Spartans’ defensive backline of junior Jenna Reeves, senior Aryanna St. Pierre, and sophomore Emily Colon limited Canyon’s scoring chances by closing off runs and clearing balls away from the attacking third.
Canyon produced a scoring chance in the 62nd minute, but sophomore Mikayla Arcebido’s line drive shot was saved by Spartans goalie Breana Martinez.
Martinez produced another save in the 78th minute on a shot by Comanches sophomore McKenna Carrillo, and a final clearance by Reeves inside the final minute helped closed out the win and the league title for the Spartans.
“We’ve come out trying to prove ourselves every game this season because people don’t expect us to win and think that we’re going to break down,” Reeves said. “We’ve come out and tried to prove ourselves every game and that has given us an edge which been really good for us.”
Though Whitfield wanted his team to enjoy their accomplishment, he was quick to point out the Spartans will be focused on maintaining their strong play in the upcoming CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs.
“I feel that we have consistently been the best team in this league and have proven that throughout,” Whitfield said. “It’s important that we enjoy that for the moment and then move on to preparing for CIF.”
Camargo credited the Spartans’ effort and knows that his team must shake off the defeat as they prepare for CIF. The Comanches can clinch second place with a win in their regular season final Wednesday at Foothill and an Esperanza loss to the Spartans.
“It was a hard fought match, but Villa Park wanted it more than we did and it showed on the field,” Camargo said. “They earned the title and now we have to move and get ready for CIF because that is a brand new season.”