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Yorba Linda wins first ever Empire League title
YORBA LINDA-With her team trailing 1-0 in the closing moments of the second overtime period in Thursday's Empire League showdown against Pacifica, Yorba Linda senior Emily Shleppey knew her team needed a big play.
“I was telling myself that we had worked all season to get here and this could be our last push toward winning a league title,” Shleppey said. “I just wanted to help my team out by getting a good shot on frame.”
Accomplishing that objective helped bring home the first ever league title in school history for the Mustangs, as Shleppey's goal helped the Mustangs to a 1-1 tie with the Mariners at Yorba Linda High.
“Winning this league title is a great experience because we helped build this program from the ground and everyone has worked together for this,” Shleppey said. “We now want to remember this feeling and keep the momentum going into the next game.”
Since losing to Valencia 2-1 on January 9th, the Mustangs (11-5-7, 8-1-3) are unbeaten in their last nine matches (6-0-3). They edged out the Mariners (9-8-4, 8-2-2) by one point for the league title.
“We believe in ourselves and our ability to come through,” Mustangs coach Greg Aviles said. “We feel that we can be one of the best teams and make a run at a CIF title. We just have to keep going forward and staying strong.”
It was a tight first half, as both teams used stellar defense to limit quality scoring chances.
Pacifica’s only scoring chance of the match came in the 16th minute, when senior Marina Berrios was able to find room to get a shot off.
But Mustangs senior goalie Kristin Kleinow made a diving stop to end the threat.
Yorba Linda had two scoring chance near the midway point of the half, but senior Ashley Webb had a shot go over the crossbar in the 18th minute, while fellow senior Andi Bond had a shot saved by Mariners junior goalie Meg Glisson in the 19th minute.
Mustangs senior defender Taryn Tanaka highlight her team’s strong defensive first half by clearing two scoring chances out of the box in the 22nd minute.
Pacifica produced a scoring chance in the 41st minute, but junior Christine Chen had a twisting line drive shot saved by Kleinow.
Glisson came up big for the Mariners in 56th minute, as she made a diving save to her right on a shot by Yorba Linda senior Shelby Lanksbury.
She would later help send the match into overtime, with saves on a shot by Webb and sophomore Allie Kolb in the final two minutes of regulation.
The Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute of the first overtime, as senior Ann Marie Lee blasted a twisting line drive shot that sailed to the right of Kleinow and into the upper far post corner of the goal.
“I was in the right spot, saw the open part of the goal, and shot for it,” Lee said.
Lee came up big on defense after her goal, clearing balls out of the attacking third in the 7th and 8th minutes of the first overtime period.
Midway into the second overtime period, Glisson contributed another big play in goal, making a diving save on a header by Webb.
Then Shleppey hit a hard line drive kick from around 30 yards out toward the goal. Glisson managed to get her hands up in time to stop the ball, but it trickled out of her grasp and bounced into the back of the net.
“I shot it on frame as hard as I could and it worked,” Shleppey said.
Sophomore Dana Jacobs and Shleppey cleared the final Mariner attacks before the final whistle.
“Though it felt like a loss because we needed a win to take the league championship, we played hard,” Mariners coach Alex Camargo said. “As long as we play with this heart in CIF, we’re going to be fine.”
Lee stated the best way to focus on the playoffs is not to dwell on the missed opportunity of winning a league title.
“We had the intention of winning, but we just have to shake it off and move forward,” Lee said.