A 5-0 loss to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Class 5A girls soccer state championship game on Saturday wasn’t the way the eight Valley Center seniors wanted to go out.
But Hornets’ coach Jeff Burger knows the loss will do nothing to take away from everything they have done over their careers.
“It’s going to take them 10 years to realize what they accomplished,” Burger said. “I remember their scrawny, little, skinny bodies coming on the field that first year and realizing that these girls are going to do something. They just had that attitude, that work ethic.”
Their four-year run ended with a total of 54 wins and 43 shutouts, including a 20-1 record and runner-up finish at state this season, the best finish in program history.
“It’s phenomenal. I couldn’t ask anymore from my team. We had the best season Valley Center’s ever had,” senior defender Holle McQuitty said. “This is what the seniors have worked for and this is what the entire team has worked for. Nobody has believed in us up until now.”
Valley Center knew coming in that it would take perfection to beat Aquinas, a team that has now won four consecutive Class 5A state championships.
And for the first 20 minutes, the Hornets did just about everything right.
It wasn’t until Aquinas midfielder Kelly Sweeny scored 21 minutes in that Valley Center finally showed any weakness. When Jamie Kutey made it 2-0 only a few minutes before halftime, everything became unhinged for the Hornets.
“You can’t be intimidated or what we did in the second half will happen right away,” Valley Center senior Madison Wedekind said. “We just let the first few goals get to us and we kind of fell apart a little bit.”
Facing a relentless wind and a multi-goal deficit against the premier soccer program in the state was too much for the Hornets. The Saints found the net three more times in the second half to claim their 13th state title in girls soccer.
“I think that second goal, the last one by Kutey to make it 2-0 at half, had to get into the spirit of who they are,” Aquinas coach Craig Ewing said. “Valley Center is a good squad and I thought they had a great season. We just played a really good half against the wind and that put us in pretty good position the second half.”
Valley Center continued to fight until the end, however, with Wedekind nearly putting a couple in the net late in the game.
The loss is the one and only blemish on an otherwise stellar resume for Valley Center, and the seniors felt they did their best and are still trying to wrap their heads around everything they have accomplished over their four years.
“It’s really cool to be one of the players that got to make it happen,” Wedekind said. “Just to go to state is a good honor and we shouldn’t be disappointed about second, because there are lots of other teams that would love to be here doing what we did.”
Bishop Carroll 2, Mill Valley 1 — Bishop Carroll could have accepted the fate of a second overtime, but with a few seconds still remaining in the first, the Eagles decided to give their corner kick a try.
“Magic happened there,” Carroll coach Greg Rauch said. “Truthfully, I feel terrible for Mill Valley because if you are on the receiving end of that it’s just awful. But obviously you give it a chance and that’s exactly why you send the ball in.”
Maria Walden’s prayer curved perfectly over the players’ heads and into the net just as time expired to give Carroll a 2-1 win over Mill Valley on Saturday and a third-place finish at state.
The goal broke the silence of a scoreless second half. Mill Valley’s Abigail Sieperda scored less than six minutes into the game, which was answered with a goal by Carroll’s Shelby Lopez before the half.
“Emily Woods had a great pass and I touched it with the outside of my right food and I just hit it,” Lopez, a sophomore, said. “It’s very important for us to keep coming to state and eventually we are going to get good enough and we are going to be at the finals, I’m sure of it.”
Carroll goalkeeper Jami Reichenberger was key to keeping the game even in the second half. Mill Valley outshot the Eagles 13-0, with Reichenberger getting eight saves to help force overtime.
“Not a bad year at all,” Rauch said. “Finishing third out of all these teams is something to hang your hat on. I’m proud of the girls for certain. I’m proud of third place.”
Aquinas 5, Valley Center 0
First half—Aquinas, Sweeney; Aquinas, Kutey (Pyle). Second half—Aquinas, Meyers (Kutey); Aquinas, Pyle; Aquinas, Disidore (Pyle). Shots—Aquinas 7-14—21; Valley Center 3-2—5. Saves—Aquinas, Loughman 2-0—2; Aquinas, Kutney 0-1—1; Valley Center, Coleman 3-5—8.
Bishop Carroll 2, Mill Valley 1
First half—Mill Valley, Sieperda; Carroll, Lopez (Woods). Overtime—Carroll, Walden. Shots—Carroll 2-0-3—5; Mill Valley 3-13-1—17. Saves—Carroll, Reichenberger 2-6-0—8; Mill Valley, Minter 1-0-1—2.