Strong finish gives Lions girls' soccer a shutout victory in OT


All year long the Cathedral City High School girls’ soccer team considered itself a better second-half squad.

Coach Jorge Polanco says his Lions are slow starters, but more often have a better result as the game goes on.

Such was the case Thursday night in the Desert Valley League season finale against rival Palm Springs.

The two teams battled through regulation, finishing in a scoreless tie, then the Lions struck in each of the two 10-minute overtime periods to win, 2-0. That was good enough to solidify Cathedral City’s second-place finish in the league race. The Lions are 7-4-1 in DVL, 13-10-3 overall.

“We had to win,” said senior Ashley Hernandez, who followed freshman Alinah Espinoza’s first overtime period goal with a goal midway through the second OT. “That’s all we thought about before the game. We knew we could do it, we just needed to bring out the intensity. It was obviously very long, senior night, then overtime and we just had to get past that. We know we’ve been a slow-starting team, but in the second half we picked it up.”

Neither team could get anything going in the first half and it was more of the same in the second half.

Cathedral City senior Claudia Zepeda got off a couple of shots and freshman Miyah Coleman and junior Melissa De La Rosa kept the ball in play, but then it was the defense that took over. Cynthia Hernandez, Leslie Penaloza, Brenda Arauz and Alyssa Godinez needed to step up and the Lions did.

Palm Springs had a chance with Hennesy Pena and Annie Mueller out front after a corner kick from Keely Ramstead, but Cynthia Hernandez and Pena continued the foot battle for the ball.

“All year we tried our best to get them to start off well, but it’s been that they get better as the game goes,” said Polanco. “I don’t know how to explain it. We just try to look for weakness in the other team, make those adjustments and it gives us better results.”

That’s what the Lions did in the second half. Cathedral City switched up the two center midfielders, Godinez and Arauz with Cynthia Hernandez.

It also gave the Lions a bit more confidence because the Palm Springs defense was solid throughout with Marina Guirguis and Claresha Clemons leading the effort. The Indians didn’t let up in the second half. Palm Springs Yomara Mendez, Nayely Silva and Katie Ross stayed on Ashley Hernandez, but Zepeda slipped a great pass to Hernandez, who fired to Rachel Wright out front, but the ball was scooped up by the Indians’ swarming defense.

The Lions came close again when Zepeda went in front of the goal, but Ross and Ramstead quickly crossed in front to make certain there wasn’t a chance on a rebound.

Palm Springs coach Deb Cormier noted her team’s strong defensive effort, but said it was all about finishing.

“You can’t give good teams second chances and you have to finish when you have the opportunity,” she said. “We didn’t finish when we could and they finished when they could. We struggled all year scoring goals and it’s been difficult (the Indians played all season on an alternate field and practiced on the baseball field) but they’ve never complained. Now if we can get to CIF, we know it’s a new season.”

The Indians stand at 5-6-1 DVL, 10-9-1 overall. Palm Springs is tied for fourth with Palm Desert. Athletic directors are meeting Friday to discuss soccer tie-breakers.

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