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Aliso Niguel back in semifinals
With one powerful swing of her right leg, Sarah Wehan helped put the Aliso Niguel girls soccer team on the doorstep of another appearance in the CIF-SS Division1 championship match.
Wehan scored the winner in the second half as the Wolverines edged Villa Park, 1-0, in a quarterfinal Thursday at Aliso Niguel High.
The Wolverines (12-3-6) will be on the road Tuesday to play top-seeded Capistrano Valley in the semifinals.
"For us to get back to the semifinals after being the champion last year is huge for the girls," Wolverines coach Randy Dodge said. "We're showing tremendous heart and we believe."
It was a strong defensive start for both teams in the first half. The Spartans’ backline of senior Aryanna St. Pierre, junior Jenna Reeves, and sophomore Emily Colon contained the attack of the Wolverines.
Aliso Niguel’s defense was just as stingy, as senior Nicole Smolinski helped lead a Wolverines effot that limited the Spartans to just two shots on goal in the half.
“Coming into the match, I knew they were very talented and liked to attack,” Smolinski said. “I knew that I had to help set the tone for the rest of our defense, be tough, and not let anyone get by me.”
The Wolverines' best scoring chances of the first half came near the midway point. In the 20th minute, Sarah Roberts lofted a corner kick into the box for teammate Dominique Bond-Flasza, who one-timed a shot that sailed wide of the near post.
Four minutes later, Bond-Flasza found space in the middle of the field and blasted a hard line drive shot that Spartans goalie Breana Martinez plucked out of the air with a leaping two-handed save.
Led by sophomore Bethany Sutherland, the Spartans managed to make some strong runs into the attacking third early in the second half. But the Wolverines defense didn’t allow any shot attempts.
In the 67th minute, a loose ball trickled over to Wehan, who blasted a hard line drive shot that was partially deflected as it flew through the box. The ball changed rotation, bounced to the right of Martinez, and into the far corner post of the goal.
"I had a feeling that it was going to poke out, and it was the right place at the right time," Wehan said. "The second it came off (my foot), I had a feeling that it was going in."
Villa Park managed to earn two corner-kick chances and a throw-in deep into the attacking third in the closing moments of the match, but defensive clearances by seniors Danica Koos and Breanne Chilton-Eddy thwarted the Spartans' final chances.
"At the end of the day, there has to be a loser, and unfortunately we were on the short end of the stick," Spartans coach Brent Whitfield said.
Moments after the match, Dodge was already looking ahead to facing his former South Coast League rival for the chance to play in the championship match.
“We’re going to give them our best game,” Dodge said. “Capistrano Valley is sitting with the No. 1 seed and we think we’re pretty good too.”
“At the end of the day, its two great teams from South Orange County in the semis and that’s pretty cool.”
In other quarterfinals:
Also in Division 1:
Capistrano Valley 0, Santa Margarita 0 (Capistrano Valley wins on PKs, 4-3): Goalie Aubrie Coley had two penalty kicks saves as the visiting Cougars (19-1-3) advanced by outlasting the Eagles (10-6-4). Alex Hussar converted the decisive penalty kick for Capistrano Valley.
In Division 2:
Sunny Hills 3, Valencia of Valencia 2 (OT): Jewels Zuniga scored the golden goal in overtime as the visiting Lancers (23-1-5) edged the Vikings (17-2-5). Sarah Gauthier scored twice in regulation for Sunny Hills, which next will be at home against Westlake.
In Division 3:
Yorba Linda 3, Granite Hills of Apple Valley 0: Emily Shleppey scored two goals in the second half as the host Mustangs (13-5-7) beat the Cougars (17-6-3). Allie Kolb also tallied a goal for Yorba Linda, which next will be host to Bishop Amat of La Puente.
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