SOCCER: Lions dethrone Monarchs with early goal

The fifth-seeded Mira Monte Lions eliminate the fourth-seeded Exeter Monarchs from the Division IV Northern California Girls Soccer Championships

EXETER – Unable to come back after the Lions scored just 40 seconds into the game, the Monarchs lost 2-1 in the first round of regionals, ending their season.

 In the first round of the Division IV Northern California Girls Soccer Championships on Feb. 28, the fifth-seeded Mira Monte Lions defeated and eliminated the fourth-seeded Exeter Monarchs. The Lions scored just 40 seconds into the game which rattled the Monarchs. Though the Monarchs were able to tie it up, the Lions pulled off another goal just before halftime to make it 2-1. Despite dominating possession of the ball in the second half, the Monarchs weren’t able to score again and the loss ended their season.

“Once we got the first goal at 40 seconds that kind of set the tone of the game,” Mira Monte head coach Miguel Rico said. “We tried to control [Exeter’s] middle because they have a good middle. Everybody dropped back and helped.”

The Lions charged towards the Monarch goal after kickoff, quickly setting up their offense. Before the Monarch defense could settle, sophomore Kim Ledezma scored just 40 seconds into the game. With a lead, the Lions relaxed into their play and battled with the Monarchs at midfield throughout the first half. Though they don’t play on turf, the Lions had little trouble with Exeter’s slippery turf field that was even more treacherous in the rain.

The Monarchs tied up the game at 12 minutes with a goal from senior Olivia Vasquez. Vasquez took the ball up the middle, staying patient and dribbling her away around and through the Lions’ defense. She went through four defenders before it was just her and the goalie. Vasquez had a clean shot and took it, putting the Monarchs’ only point on the board. At that point, it was anyone’s game, but the Monarchs didn’t seem recharged after tying the score. They were still rattled after the Lions’ quick goal.

“We made the mistakes that we said not to make,” Exeter head coach Darin Lasky said. “Watch the field, watch the skipped balls and we just didn’t do a very good job with it.”

It was as if the Monarchs were playing in slow motion. They struggled to put pressure on the Lions’ offense and at 24 minutes they allowed another goal from senior Angie Rodriguez. Rodriguez and Ledezma were the two players Lasky had warned his team to watch out for and unfortunately for the Monarchs, they failed to contain them.

After a strong pep talk from their coaches and captain, the Monarchs came back renewed in the second half. The rain had picked up but the wind was blowing in the Monarchs’ favor. They were ready to score the two goals they needed to win. For the next forty minutes, the Monarchs mounted an impressive attack on the Lions’ goal. They held possession of the ball for the majority of the second half and had several opportunities to score, but they just couldn’t get the ball in the net.

“The wind was going with us and we had our opportunities, we just didn’t take them,” Lasky said. “Sometimes you lose that way.”

Unfortunately the loss to Mira Monte marks the end of the season for the Monarchs, who only lost four games the entire season. They racked up some impressive stats this year. They went on a 14-game win streak between November and January and recorded 18 shutouts in 26 games. Though they came in second in the Tri-County Kings Canyon league, they were moved up to Division III and won the valley championships.

“To get this far, it’s unbelievable,” Lasky said. “I asked them at halftime if [the first half] is their legacy. They said no and they went out and fought hard. We dominated the second half, but unfortunately it was just too late.”

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