NCS soccer: Cinderella teams relying on defense

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The three Sonoma County surprise teams still alive in the North Coast Section playoffs will have one statistic in common when they take the field for tonight’s semifinals.
The three Cinderellas — Santa Rosa girls and Cardinal Newman and Sonoma Academy boys — have yet to allow a goal while advancing through the opening and quarterfinal rounds in their respective brackets.

Santa Rosa, the No. 5 seed in Div. I, travels to top-seeded Maria Carrillo (18-0-1). No. 11 Cardinal Newman, with victories over higher-seeded teams in the opening rounds, visits No. 3 Analy (SCL champs) in the Div. I semis while No. 6 Sonoma Academy, once 3-10 on the season, goes to No. 10 Fremont Christian for a Div. III semi. All three games start at 7 p.m.
Of the three surprise teams, Santa Rosa’s task seems most daunting. During the North Bay League season, Maria Carrillo won 6-0 on the Panthers’ field and then got a 4-1 home victory on Oct. 22. In the last meeting, Amanda LaLonde, Santa Rosa leading scorer, played sparingly after suffering tendon and ligament damage to her left big toe, after a fall in a game two days earlier at Ursuline.

“The playoffs are a new day and we’re not conceding anything,” Santa Rosa coach Nikki Kumasaka said. “No question it will be a challenging game for us, but we weren’t at full speed when we met Oct. 22 and we’ll be healthier this time.
“We know to be successful we’ve got to stop their top players, Sara Tosti and Katie Mohr, from getting going.
“Those two wins in the opening rounds have given us confidence and we’ll come in pumped up.”
Santa Rosa, with a 10-4-2 record, got to the semis by defeating No. 12 Arcata, 2-0, in the opening round, and then last Saturday edged No. 4 Ursuline. Those teams couldn’t score against one another in regulation or overtime, and penalty kicks had to be used to snap the deadlock. The Panthers prevailed, 4-3.

Cardinal Newman got to the semis by defeating No. 6 Ukiah, 1-0, in the first round and then shocking No. 3 Tamalpais,1-0, in the quarter-finals last Saturday. Tam is the Marin County Athletic League champs and finished with a 13-3-8 record while the Cardinals are still playing with a 10-7-6 mark.

“Our beating Tam came as a surprise to a lot of people,” coach Paul Dixon said. “They were big favorites to win.”
Simon Bell scored from 12 yards out following a corner kick about midway through the second half.
“It was only his second goal of the year,” Dixon said. “He plays defender, so it’s rare for him to be in position to score.”
Keller Lawson was the Newman keeper in both playoff games and Dixon said he was very busy against Tamalpais.
“Believe you me, in those last 20 minutes after we scored, Lawson must’ve stopped 10 shots on goal,” Dixon said.

Newman played Analy to a scoreless tie in the Healdsburg Tournament on August 28.
“We’ve improved since then,” Dixon said. “Mentally, everyone on the team is on the same page now. It’ll be a good game, there’s not much between the two teams.”
In its march to the semifinal round in Div. III, the Sonoma Academy (10-13-0) boys defeated No. 11 Contra Costa Christian, 1-0, the opening round and then knocked out No. 3 seed Rincon Valley Christian, 2-0, in the quarters.
RVC won the first two meetings between the schools. However, in the quarters, goals by Frankie Graham and Garrett Griffin keyed the upset.
A young team, Sonoma Academy won only three of its first 13 games before going on an 8-3 run.
The quarterfinal game was the best the Coyotes played this season, according to coach Chris Ziemer.

“We prepared well and the boys were ready to play from the start,” he said. “It was a great performance from our team.”
Fremont Christian (16-3-3) captured the Bay Counties League.
“We are playing at their field,” Ziemer said, “which is great. Their artificial turf will provide a great surface. I’m confident our boys will be ready to play.”
In the other Div. III semi, No. 1 Anderson Valley takes on No. 5 Drew at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds.

In the Div. II boys semis, it will be No. 1 Marin Academy facing No. 13 St. Vincent and No. 2 Justin-Siena hosting No. 11 Fort Bragg.
In the top half of the Div. I draw, No. 1 Montgomery (NBL champs) entertains No. 4 Maria Carrillo while Cardinal Newman-Analy are in the lower half.
Moving to the girls Div. I bracket, No. 2 Montgomery will travel to No. 3 Casa Grande (SCL champs) while the other half is the Maria Carrillo-Santa Rosa match-up.

There is no Div. II and in Div. III, the semi-final match-ups are: No. 1 Roseland University Prep vs. No. 5 Rincon Valley Christian at Elsie Allen High and No. 2 St. Vincent facing No. 3 Middletown at Rancho Cotate High.
All games tonight begin at 7.
The finals in all divisions are set for Saturday.