By the time the Santa Catalina School girls soccer team got used to the extremely wet conditions on its own field, The King’s Academy was in search of a third goal.
The rain and the Knights proved to be a powerful two-hit combo, as Santa Catalina was eliminated 6-1 on Wednesday afternoon in the first round of the Central Coast Section Division III tournament.
It was a tough finish for Santa Catalina, the champions of the Mission Trail Athletic League, which lost for just the second time this season.
The King’s Academy came in as the defending Division III champions but were seeded 13th for a second consecutive year. And the Knights showed right away they have the firepower to defend the title.
In the second minute, a Santa Catalina player was called for a handball just outside of its goalkeeper’s box. Jett Hayward took the free kicking duties and went low right with her shot on goal. The ball curved in, giving The King’s Academy a 1-0 lead.
Two minutes later, the Knights got the ball right back deep in Santa Catalina territory. The ball went to the right side of the goal, but a Knight forward kicked the ball back to the center, where Kara Need was, and she sent it in for a 2-0 Knight advantage.
“We made some early mistakes, and we were climbing uphill the rest of the way,” said Santa Catalina coach Ash Vasanji. “It’s tough to go down 2-0 early and fight back vs. a team that was in good shape. We adjusted and didn’t give up.”
Santa Catalina did all it could to immediately answer. In the seventh minute, the Cougars got a corner kick. The ball went into the mass of players, and a Santa Catalina player headed the ball toward the goal, but it was tapped away by a Knights defender. Santa Catalina got a second corner kick that was immediately cleared.
The King’s Academy kept trying to push the tempo, even as the rain continued to come down harder. The Santa Catalina defense held its ground, and goalkeeper Tamara Attia made several spectacular catches and saves to keep the score 2-0 going into half.
The start of the second half was much like the first, as The King’s Academy scored early.
The Knights got two goals in the first six minutes of the second half, pushing their lead to 4-0.
Santa Catalina got on the board in the 57th minute. Kimmy Villegas ran down the right side with the ball, and she kicked it to Daisy Villegas, who dodged the Knights’ goalkeeper and put it in the net, cutting Santa Catalina’s deficit to 4-1.
It was the first time The King’s Academy allowed a goal in a CCS game since 2008. The Knights didn’t allow a goal in postseason play last season.
But unlike last year’s four close contests, the Knights’ six goals kept the team at ease.
The visitors from Sunnvyale scored a goal in the 68th and 78th minutes for their fifth and sixth tallies of the game.
Despite the loss, Vasanji, coaching his first year at Santa Catalina after several years at Seaside, said he was proud of how the team played all season, and he gave praise to the newcomers, which there were plenty of.
“We were such a young team,” Vasanji said. “We had four returners, and 50 percent of the team hadn’t played soccer before.”
The Cougars finished the season 15-2-2.