Shadow Hills High School won its 12th consecutive game in girls’ soccer on Thursday. And after it was all over, handfuls of Hershey’s Kisses made the win even sweeter for the more than 100 fans in attendance.
In a near identical script to every Knights game since Jan. 6, Shadow Hills scored early and often in a game that was put to bed with a 4-0 lead at the intermission.
The De Ana League champions twice found the back of the net in the first 10 minutes and rolled to a decisive, 5-0 victory over Carpinteria of Santa Barbara in the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation Division 7 playoffs.
“They’re not satisfied,” assistant coach Jorge Gutierrez said. “Winning De Anza, to them, is not enough. That’s what’s driving them.”
Luz Quezada, last year’s league Player of the Year, recorded a hat trick with her three goals, and freshman forward Mason Stansberry added two more for good measure. Stansberry, senior midfielder Natalie Navarro, Jackie Rodriguez assisted on the goals.
Carpinteria defeated Santiago High, 3-0, on Tuesday in a wild card game, but were outmatched early against Shadow Hills, trailing within the first six minutes.
The Knights have lost just once since Dec. 9. That 2-1 loss to Laguna Beach is the only blemish over the last 16 games. In the 12 games since, Shadow Hills (18-3-1) has found another gear, outscoring opponents 72-11, which includes shutouts in each other the last five games.
“We’ve been working at it,” senior captain Isabel Rodriguez said. “The main goal is to make it all the way.”
Shadow Hills returned the bulk of its roster from last year’s squad that reached the Division 8 semifinals, and added five freshmen who’ve added depth to an already potent attack. That includes Stansberry, who has been one of the most prolific offensive threats in the league in her first year with the team.
With the goal to make it to the CIF final made prior to the start of the season, head coach Wil Cabezas pushed his team in practices, and continues to do so, even after they jump out to an early lead. He’s been the voice in the back of their heads.
“Coach has always taught us to play together,” Rodriguez said, “and it’s the strong bond that helps us play together.”
Added Quezada, “We’re taught to play together. Everything we do is about the team, and helping one another.”
That much is evident by the way the team shares the ball on the field, and joke with each other on the bench during blowouts and after games.
That tends to comes easy during wins. Cabezas and Gutierrez want to make sure they don’t have to find out if that will be the case in tighter games.
For now, that’s not something the Knights should be concerned with. Players acknowledge that the games will get tougher, but that’s not ruining the fun they’re having now.
After Thursday’s win, players rushed into a circle to grab handfuls of Hershey chocolates and, laughing all the way, tossed them into the crowd in the stands that came out to support them.
And if the Knights continue playing like they have over the last six weeks, there will be much more to celebrate very soon.
“We’re having fun right now,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a high goal that we want to achieve, but I feel that this team has a lot of passion and heart, and that will get us further than last year.”