By Lexi Lobdell and Miranda Simes
After a dramatic match in extreme wind and rain, the girls varsity soccer team prevailed over Branham High School Saturday evening 3-2, winning the CCS Division I Championship. The driving rain drastically altered playing conditions, making the ball skid and skip out of bounds, but M-A was able to place skilled shots past Branham’s goalkeeper to ensure victory.
Last week, the Bears beat Saint Ignatius in the semifinals to reach the championship game on Saturday, after a suspenseful PK shootout. The team stepped onto the field Saturday eager to bring home M-A’s first girls championship.
During the game, senior Sarah McLeod scored twice, and sophomore Josephine Cotto added the final goal, all in the last 10:30 of the second half, which the Bears had entered losing 2-0. The almost 30 mph winds and heavy downpour did not stop M-A’s devoted fan section from cheering on the team.
McLeod stated, “It was really exciting [to win CCS], especially for the seniors. It was our last chance and we’ll always be remembered now, because we get the little sign in the gym I think, it’s very exciting.” Saturday’s win was not only special for the current team; this is the first time in M-A history the girls soccer team has won a CCS championship.
M-A and Branham shared possession for much of the first half and forward junior Katie Guenin made repeated runs toward goal, but was ultimately thwarted by Branham’s omnipresent defense and the tricky conditions. Junior Alyssa McNerney and McLeod dominated the midfield, controlling the ball and serving up runs made by Guenin and senior Talia Missan. M-A’s defense led by senior Kasey Love and sophomore goalkeeper Breanna Sandoval kept Branham out of M-A’s half.
Branham scored again before the half ended, and the Bears trudged down into the dry locker rooms, ready to talk strategy. Love shared, “At halftime we were down, but we knew we could come back and score; it was just a matter of getting one goal and then we could get more, and we did that.” McLeod agreed and noted that the team’s coach, “Jason, told us he still had faith in us and he wasn’t worried, so that helped.”
The girls came out determined, and maintained possession in the Bruins’ defensive half. Love explained the Bears’ strategy: “After 20 minutes [into the second half] we took out a center defender [Ali Sivilotti] and put in a fourth forward [Mara Cavallaro]. So we only had three back, so I had to make sure we weren’t vulnerable on counter attacks and keep the ball up in their half.”
With ten minutes to go, McLeod was awarded a free kick and she lofted the ball just out of reach of Branham’s keeper, bringing the score to 2-1. McLeod’s second goal came only four minutes later, and the ball bounced into the net in a scrum of Branham defenders. Finally, Cotto’s winning shot came from a far right cross, bringing the score up to 3-2 with only three minutes of play remaining.
“We definitely wanted to go out and win CCS [from the beginning of the season], but we also definitely came together as team at the end of the season,” Love concluded.
Cover photo credit David Stephenson, MaxPreps.
@cifccs @TheMAChronicle @bearsathletics_ CONGRATS! GIRLS soccer! Coach Luce & Asst Coach/AD Snow are proud! pic.twitter.com/FZUomy4evn
— Betsy Sergeant Snow (@snowfoto) March 6, 2016
Menlo-Atherton defeats Branham 3-2 to win the CCS D1 Girls Soccer Championship! @BranhamSports @bearsathletics_ #ccsplayoffs
— CIF-CCS (@cifccs) March 6, 2016
GIRLS VARSITY SOCCER CCS CHAMPIONS
— M-A Chronicle (@TheMAChronicle) March 6, 2016