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Ravens fly high in spite of rain

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Canyon Crest girls soccer team wins South Bay Mustang Cup

Scrambling through traffic jams and overturned cars amid stormy weather and flooded streets was only part of it.

The Canyon Crest Academy girls soccer teams faced plenty of adversity during the Mustang Cup held last week at several South Bay high schools.

The challenges were everywhere and compiled into a list.

-Early morning starts to the day.

-A lengthy drive to the South Bay

-Hours of down time in between matches.

-Games against schools from divisions with larger enrollment.

-Being tagged as a tournament underdog.

-Late evening drives back home to Carmel Valley.

Those were all legitimate confrontations for the Ravens.

But perhaps its biggest challenge was its opponent Wednesday night at Montgomery High.

And Canyon Crest made the best of the challenge with a 4-3 win in penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw against Hilltop in the T90 bracket final of the 32-team tournament which began Dec. 17.

The Ravens clinched the title behind four consecutive converted penalty kicks and a key save from goalkeeper Jaqueline Lombard.

Gabrielle De Petro, Blair Noble, Taylor Candia and Nicole Pappalardo scored from the penalty spot to outlast the Lancers, a South Bay perennial powerhouse.

Christina Scutti didn’t convert her PK with Hilltop goalkeeper Donna Greenman making a diving save to her right but it didn’t matter.

Hilltop had two shooters miss. That included Samantha Martinez’ blast off the crossbar to end a lively match that featured both teams speeding up and down the field with scoring opportunities.

“All those missed opportunities proved to be the difference in the game,” said Cancon Crest first year coach Greg La Porte. “We just couldn’t send in clear shots in the second half like we should have.”

The Ravens were held scoreless and allowed two goals in the final 48 minutes after Scutti (20th minute) and Hannah Kaplan (29th minute) scored for Canyon Crest.

Scutti’s score was an 18-yard blast to the right of Greenman, Hilltop’s backup goalkeeper who starts on the junior varsity. Varsity starter Hannah Teague was out of town on vacation.

Kaplan’s goal was a bending volley into the upper-left corner of the net from about 22-yards out.

Maxia Espino scored for Hilltop in the 32nd minute while Marisa Espino tied the match three minutes into the second half.

“That score in the early minutes after halftime kind of put us out of a rhythm,” La Porte said. “(Hilltop) adjusted well and continued to be aggressive and physical.”

The Lancers also used speed on the wings to attack the Ravens. Both of their goals came off long centered passes from near the sidelines to inside the goalkeeper’s box.

Marisa Espino’s score came off a Jessica Carrillo long volleyed center to the mouth of the goal. That’s where Espino poked in the ball with point-blank a one-timer off her left foot.

Maxia Espino’s goal came off a corner kick. She sent in a loose ball from a bout 10 yards out.

Hilltop used a fluid brand of soccer to control the midfield and used the wings to attack the Ravens. Midfielder Nicole Wolfe steered most of the Lancers attack, distributing pin-point passes to attackers.

“I know we were the better team tonight,” said Lancers coach Rene Ortiz. “We controlled most of the game but failed to convert some opportunities. I don’t feel to bad knowing we played better soccer tonight.”

But it wasn’t enough.

The team that came into the tournament considered an underdog left the field perhaps having earned a little more respect in the soccer community.

The Ravens, who beat the Lancers 2-1 during group play, endured having to leave Carmel Valley for a 30-mile drive to the South Bay to play in the stormy weather that hit San Diego County this week.

Canyon Crest had to play in a narrow flooded field at San Ysidro high during the bracket semifinal.

Parents had to scramble to find things to do in between matches as the tournament often gave teams two to three hour breaks in between matches.

Canyon Crest players found their own means of transportation to the games that often began early morning. They made the drive back to Carmel Valley late evening only to return the next morning.

“It was a crazy experience with the weather,” said La Porte. “But it wasn’t all that bad. It was worth it.”

The school with 1,900 enrollment playing in the CIF San Diego Section’s Division IV for small schools had clinched the title against teams from Division I and II.

It was a step to perhaps making a statement. Canyon Crest might have proved it is not afraid of taking on tough challenges and it plans to improve from a first-round playoff loss last year.

“We are trying to establish a consistent soccer program,” La Porte said. “This is just a step to doing that. It doesn’t matter the circumstances.”

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