Former Maria Carrillo stars lead JC women’s soccer to state

Cara Curtin and her sister led the way for the SRJC women’s soccer team on Saturday afternoon. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / PD).

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Two freshmen who didn’t play the sport in high school did all the scoring Saturday afternoon as Santa Rosa JC’s women’s soccer team qualified for the CCAA State Championship by defeating Cosumnes River, 3-0.

The Bear Cubs will play in the semifinals this Friday at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita. A victory will give them a shot at the state title next Sunday. Fresno City is the other Northern California team in the final four. Two spots will be filled by Southern California teams.

Cara and Lauren Curtin, who decided to transition from cross country to soccer this summer after running four years at Maria Carrillo High, scored all three goals for the undefeated Bear Cubs.

That the Curtin girls are even on the soccer team is a surprise. At Maria Carrillo, the twins starred as long distance runners. As seniors, they were on the Pumas’ cross country team that made it to state. The girls also excelled during track season, both competing multiple years in the Meet of Champions for the top athletes in Northern California. They plan to run track at SRJC in the spring.

“We’ve always liked soccer,” Lauren explained, “but that conflicted with cross country in high school. We’ve been playing in the Rincon Valley “B” soccer league for years. At the last minute this summer, we decided not to go out for cross country at the JC but play soccer instead.”

Cross country’s loss is Bear Cubs coach Emiria Salzmann’s gain.

“I got one look at the twins’ speed and decided they would be my outside strikers,” Salzmann said. “They’ve worked out great.”

The Curtins led the team to a Big 8 Conference title and a 16-0-5 record heading to the state tournament.

Cara had an October to remember. She scored at least one goal in every game her team played and had the game winner in four of those. She finished the month with 19 goals.
Lauren’s October was also memorable, but for the wrong reasons. She fractured her elbow after taking a hit in a game last month and was sidelined two weeks.

Lauren got the first goal Saturday, two minutes before halftime. Katie Deneau, a sophomore out of Santa Rosa High, got the assist. It was her quick thinking that started the play.

At midfield, the referee whistled a foul against Cosumnes River. Deneau ran over to get the ball before any of the Hawks could get back on defense. In fact, the only player running toward the Cosumnes goal was Lauren Curtin.

“Coach always tells us to get a quick release when we have a free kick,” Deneau said. “I heard the whistle and ran over to pick up the ball.

“I spotted Lauren alone near the zone and passed it to her. She was ready for the ball and beat the goalie.”

The second goal came 15 minutes into the second half and was a give-and-go between the Curtins. Lauren got to the 18-yard mark and spotted her sister coming in from the other side.

“I was in full stride and the ball caught me perfectly,” Cara said. “I had the perfect set-up.”
The final goal came with 25 minutes to play as Deneau set Lauren up inside the 18-yard box.

“It was like mental telepathy,” Deneau said. “We’ve practiced that play so much, I started toward the Cosumnes goal and knew Lauren would be coming hard on the wing. I just kicked the ball to that side and there she was.”

During conference play, Cosumnes (13-5-5) tied the Bear Cubs twice.

“The fact we beat them 3-0 this time shows how much we’ve improved,” Salzmann said. “We have 22 freshmen, but they’re not playing like freshmen now. They’ve matured in ability and confidence.

“Our game plan this time was to put pressure on them to defend us. We wanted to play wide and deep to take advantage of our strikers. We were able to do just that.”

The Bear Cubs’ last visit to the Final Four was 2008. They have four straight Big 8 titles.