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Canyon Crest rallies for win against San Dieguito

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CARMEL VALLEY —- Prior to his team’s match against San Dieguito Academy, Canyon Crest Academy girls soccer coach Mario Mrakovic said the key to the Ravens’ fast start this season has been slowing the game down for his players.

“We just need the girls to play proper soccer,” said Mrakovic, who watched his team win 11 of its first 12 games.

But after a lopsided loss to La Jolla on Tuesday, the first-year coach had to wonder how his team would respond against the Mustangs.

Thursday’s match initially didn’t go well for Canyon Crest, which got off to a start as bumpy as its pasture-like field and trailed by two goals after the opening minutes of the second half. But a late offensive surge produced three goals, including the game-winner by Christina Scutti with two minutes left in the match, for a 3-2 nonleague victory.

“I think the difference in the second half was the other team got tired,” said Mrakovic, a successful coach with the San Diego Surf soccer club who took over the Canyon Crest program this year. “We substituted a lot and had rested legs in the second half. The game is 80 minutes long, and favorable opportunities will come.”

It was San Dieguito that had the early opportunities as the Mustangs (3-4-3) kept pressure on Canyon Crest starting goalkeeper Jackie Lombard, who came out to make fine diving stops on shots by Ariel Chao and Katey Ford. Another shot by Chao carried over the crossbar in the 30th minute, but the Mustangs cashed in five minutes later when sophomore forward Isable Morales took an assist from fellow sophomore Jenna Asperslag and scored on a dribbler just to the left of Lombard.

San Dieguito added to its 1-0 halftime lead barely two minutes into the second half when sophomore Mikayla Siegel advanced the ball from her sweeper position, weaved her way downfield through the Canyon Crest defense and scored an unassisted goal on a nifty left-footer.

Siegel, normally a forward who can play at both ends of the field, was called upon by Mustangs coach Anna Gerber to play defense in place of an injured sweeper. Unfortunately for San Dieguito, a sliding tackle by Siegel on Canyon Crest’s Meredith Rauch was ruled to have occurred in the penalty box, leading to a penalty kick in the 52nd minute.

Nikki Pappalardo converted the PK with a shot to the left of Mustangs goalie Mia Sprau, who until then hadn’t had much pressure put on her. Jodi Helsel kept up the attack with a hard shot just over the left corner from 20 yards out, but it was a soft shot off the side of Lauren Skerritt’s foot that produced the equalizer for the Ravens in the 67th minute.

“It was just a little toe-poke inside off the side of my foot,” Skerritt said of her 12th goal of the season, which came after an assist by Rauch.

Scutti nearly scored soon after on a rebound shot, and she finally broke through in the 78th minute when she took a pass from Skerritt, dribbled around Siegel and drilled the game-winner to the left of Sprau for her team-leading 18th goal of the season.

“I think Tuesday’s 6-2 loss (to La Jolla) is what motivated us to beat these guys,” said Scutti, a sophomore forward. “We played with a passion and worked hard as a team. We’re starting new from the ground up and we want to get back to CIF so we can win it.”

Skerritt is one of only two seniors on the roster for the Ravens, who are 12-2-0 after a 6-10-2 campaign and a CIF first-round loss last season.

“I think mentally we weren’t into the game at the beginning,” Skerritt said. “But once we realized we were down two goals, we stepped it up.”

Canyon Crest also received fine goalie work in relief by Kaylee Gunning, who took over early in the second half and made six saves in goal to follow up Lombard’s three saves. Sprau had six saves while going the distance in goal for the Mustangs.

“I think after the penalty kick was called, our team got a little down,” said Gerber, whose San Dieguito team was playing for the first time since a 3-0 loss to Cathedral Catholic on Dec. 21. “Their girls got aggressive and wanted it more. We’ve had some bumps late in games, and that’s something we need to overcome.”

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