CHS sets pace with playoff victory
Expectations were high as the Lady Wolfpack geared up for their first playoff game of 2013 against Corona Centennial. Claremont kept up the tempo from the opening to the final whistle to ease to a 4-1 win.
It was almost a relief to the team to receive a number 2 seed because, with the champion label, teams gunned for Claremont all season. It was clear that Claremont could handle the pressure. Centennial was to receive more than it could handle, although the Huskies had managed a respectable 5-2-3 record and a third-place finish in the Big VIII League.
In the preceding 5 matches, Claremont had only narrowly lost to the league’s top team, Chino Hills. The Wolfpack posted a 7-2-1 record in conference matches this season, only marginally worse than last year’s CIF title-winning squad.
Claremont flew out of the blocks, signaling their intent to attack, and attack often. Only 5 minutes in to the game, the team had their first goal. A counter down the left channel saw Renken beat her marker, cut inside and loft a ball to the far post. Arft raced in and got a piece on the cross—whether it was her knee or stomach is not clear—and the ball rolled into the net.
On 21 minutes, they scored again. Orchestrator Hannah Chua turned in midfield and dinked a ball into the danger area. Madison Stark collected and shot, only to have her effort blocked. The ball rolled to Arft, who wasted no time in smashing it into the goalkeeper’s right-hand corner for her second goal of the match.
With Claremont sitting pretty with a 2-0 lead, the team could ease off the gas pedal.
“I felt uneasy with a 2-goal lead; they are very dangerous. Our team felt almost over-confident, but we were not out of the woods yet,” said Coach Tim Tracey.
From a corner at 34 minutes, Centennial’s Taylor Hollywood sent in a cross to the back post and Felix rose to head the ball into the net. Just like that, Claremont’s lead was cut in half, and Centennial was right back in the game. The halftime whistle blew to the relief of the Wolfpack, who had the wind taken out of their sails during the last 5 minutes.
“For my halftime talk, I called them out a little bit. They needed to keep playing to their potential or they would get burned, because this is a good team we’re playing,” Coach Tracey said.
The talk galvanized CHS. Seconds after the restart, Stark sent a raking pass down the right flank to Arft, who returned the favor from Renken by hitting a grass-cutter into the box, and Renken finished neatly low to the goalkeeper’s left. Claremont’s third goal was the killer, as the back 4 rarely allowed the ball into their own half after this.
Stark stayed hungry, and on 62 minutes had earned her team a penalty. Stark picked the ball up in her own half, charged 40 yards without being challenged by a Centennial defender, then was chopped down as she entered the penalty box. Marissa Telarroja calmly struck the ball past the goalkeeper with the spot kick.
“I was pleased the way we came out a different team in the second half; we kept possession better and found simple passes,” Coach Tracey said.
Next up for the Wolfpack are the Valencia Vikings, who finished first place in the Foothill League. Valencia squeaked by Moorpark 1-0, but they did not lose a conference match all season. The Vikings have dangerous strikers in Taylor Venegas and Bailey Reid, each in double figures in scoring for the season, and assist-leader Rebecca Harrison. The match will take place at Claremont High School this Tuesday, February 19 at 5 p.m.
Whoever wins this match moves on to the quarterfinals against either Millikan or Sunny Hills. Quarterfinals are on Thursday, February 21. Stay tuned for the results.