The Long Beach Poly girls’ soccer program used superior athleticism and crushing defense to get back into the Moore League title hunt this season, and the Jackrabbits used the same formula in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Sophomore Kelsey Adams was the unexpected hero for the Jackrabbits as her two second-half goals proved to be the difference in a 2-1 victory over Ventura at Cabrillo High.
Poly will play its second CIF semifinal in the last five seasons when it hosts Sunny Hills on Saturday.
“From a fans prospective that was edge-of-your-seat type action the whole time,” Poly coach Anthony Perez said. “I’ve got a star studded team. They all have heart, they all work hard and they support each other.”
Poly showed off that cohesiveness in the first half when the Jackrabbits took hold of the proceedings by using their speed. That pace also got Poly flagged for six offsides calls in the first 30 minutes, and those whistles made the game choppy enough for Ventura to gain ground. The Cougars took three of their four first-half shots in the last 15 minutes off of corner kicks and long throw ins. Ventura held the corner kick edge 7-1.
“The first half I feel like we were dominating the whole time” Adams said. “During our halftime talk we were just ready to score. Luckily those balls just found my feet.”
The first goal of the game came in the 43rd minute when Poly senior Skylar Herrera’s deflection found Adams open on the left flank. She dribbled into the box and drilled the games first goal into the far side netting with her left foot.
“I knew I was shooting it,” Adams said. “I was mapping it out as I was dribbling and I was ready to shoot it.”
Adams scored her second goal in the 55th minute when senior Ella Hively’s cross bounced off of a Ventura defender in the box. Adams, who played less than 10 games this season due to a concussion, pounced on the loose ball to put Poly up 2-0.
“She’s just getting her rhythm back,” Perez said. “I would say she was jagged the first couple games back, but now she’s getting back to that smooth stride she has. She really came out and did her thing.”
Center back Allanah Cutler and the Poly back line protected the lead with some hard tackles down the stretch. Ventura would score on a 64th minute penalty kick awarded after a hand ball, but Poly goalkeeper Kira Ybarra made two phenomenal diving saves to protect the lead.
“My back line knows how to tackle in terms of timing, and they’re willing,” Perez said. “They know that psychologically if I put a good tackle on you, I’m getting you.”
Ventura came into the quarterfinal matchup as the No. 3 team in Division 2 with only one loss and 10 goals allowed this season.
Poly won its first playoff game in three seasons last week.
“I think we’re getting this program back to where it used to be,” Adams said. “With coach Collins I believe the program was at its peak. It’s been slow the past five years, but with coach Perez this program is getting better and better each year.”
Shots: LBP 12, Ventura 11
Fouls: LBP 9, Ventura 7
Corner Kicks: LBP 1, Ventura 7
Offsides: LBP 6, Ventura 1