Mission Oak advances to Central Section Division IV girls soccer final

Mission Oak advances to Central Section Division IV girls soccer final


Mission Oak advances to Central Section Division IV girls soccer final


Liz Cui spent the first two seasons of her high school career establishing herself as one of the top players in the East Yosemite League.

She’s using the 2013 Central Section playoffs as a springboard into becoming known as one of the section’s elite players for the lower divisions.

Cui opened up the Mission Oak Hawks’ playoff campaign by knocking in three goals in a thrilling quarterfinal overtime win against No. 7 Kingsburg on Thursday.

She bettered that performance in Tuesday’s semifinal round, and her brilliant act has placed Mission Oak on the brink of the school’s first Central Section championship.

Cui led a scoring barrage with four goals in the No. 2 Hawks’ 6-0 win over the No. 14 Fresno Warriors in a Division IV semifinal match Tuesday at Mission Oak High School.

“I’m just so happy right now. I can’t believe we’re here. My teammates did everything for me. I couldn’t have done it without them,” Cui said.

Mission Oak will play for the Division IV championship on Friday. The Hawks will play either No. 1 Caruthers on the road, or will host No. 4 Strathmore. The Caruthers-Strathmore match was postponed on Tuesday because of weather and was rescheduled for today.

“It’s going to be my first [Central Section title match], but we’re ready for this. I think we can win this thing. We’re just playing our game.”

Mission Oak played a nearly flawless game despite playing in some adverse conditions — consistent rain throughout the first half, puddles turning into mini-lakes, lack of reliable footing.

“It was terrible. It was muddy. It was cold. It was just miserable,” Cui said.

But it was Cui who made life flat-out dreadful for Fresno.

On the Hawks’ first breakaway opportunity in the third minute, Cui ripped through the Warrior defense and drilled her first shot that found the back of the net for her first goal.

She scored again in the 34th minute to put Mission Oak 2-0 at halftime.

The second half was an offensive showcase by the Hawks.

Mission Oak scored two goals over a 10-minute stretch early in the second half to extend their lead to 4-0, and tacked on two more goals later in the half over a two-minute span for the final six-goal margin.

Allison Serpa and Tracy Arevalos each scored for Mission Oak.

The Mission Oak girls soccer program under the watch of head coach John Pimentel has been of the top athletic stories at Tulare’s newest high school. Fielding a junior varsity team for the 2008-09 season, the Hawks enjoyed an impressive season and were rewarded with a Central Section playoff appearance. Mission Oak has reached the playoffs in every ensuing season.

“I’ve been here since the inaugural year with [retired Mission Oak athletic director] Bob Oliver, and I told Bob that when I took this job that hopefully in four to five years we would win a Valley championship,” Pimentel said. “I thought we were going to get it last year, but it didn’t happen. We have a great opportunity to do that this time around.”

Mission Oak’s playoff march this month hasn’t been without adversity, as injuries have taken a toll on several key veteran players. There were five freshmen in Tuesday’s starting lineup, and two of those players were on the junior varsity team during the regular season.

“[The freshmen] have been playing really well. Hopefully we can get a few more players back to health for Friday,” Pimentel said.

No. 5 Sanger 2, No. 9 Tulare Western 1: The Apaches defeated the Mustangs in a Division II semifinal match in Sanger. Anyssa Dominguez scored for Tulare Western (18-5-2).

No. 1 Highland 2, No. 4 Central Valley Christian 1: The two-time defending Valley champion Scots scored with three minutes left in the match to win a Central Section Division III semifinal against the Cavaliers in Bakersfield.

Nicole Bouvia scored unassisted early in the match to give CVC (13-8-3, 9-0-1) a 1-0 lead. Highland (19-6-2, 9-0-1) scored 10 minutes later to tie the game before netting the game winner late in the rainy contest that brought sloppy field conditions with standing water on the pitch.

“It was a tough loss,” CVC head coach Jacob Degroot said. “It’s tough to end your season on such bad conditions.”


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