One incredible kick of the ball was all Los Alamitos needed to end Millikan’s season in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 girls’ soccer playoffs on Wednesday.
The wonder strike off the foot of Marisa Salazar in the 59th minute proved to be the difference in a hotly contested match that the Griffins took 1-0.
“Of the chances we were able to create we weren’t able to get the pass in the right gap to some of our play makers,” Millikan coach Tino Nunez said. “That final pass lacked, and they had a great moment. We let them inside from not stepping and that girl just hit a hell of a shot. I mean, that’s one of the best goals I’ve seen this season.”
Salazar made a deft adjustment to cut back inside on the game-winning goal, and then the senior sent a rocket shot into the far side netting.
“That was next level,” Los Alamitos coach Pat Rossi said of Salazar’s goal. “At practice she’ll do some crazy stuff like that but to do it as a game-winning goal in a game like this is just nutty. I’m super proud of her.”
Millikan showed its inherent fight throughout the game, but especially after the goal as senior captain Josie English worked hard to get the ball forward. She helped create a few chances for Hannah Marshall and Sierra Sythe up top, but the Rams only mustard a pair of shots on goal.
“The first year I was here it was a lot of grit and we worked really hard and I think that’s what continued to grow throughout the years,” said English, who is a four-year Varsity player. “(Coach Nunez) is one of the biggest parts of our success, obviously, and he showed us how much he loves the game and he puts that into his coaching and this program. That’s why it succeeds every year and gets better.”
Millikan has now won a CIF-SS Division 1 playoff game in consecutive seasons after winning three straight Moore League titles.
“This is one of the better teams we’ve had at Millikan so you hate that it ends this way,” Nunez said. “I appreciate all of the highs they’ve given us, so I’m proud of them. I told them, ‘When you walk out of here your head is not down. You made a lot of noise this year. People were worried about you and they were talking about Millikan girls’ soccer for sure.’”
The first half was extremely close and well defended as both teams threw bodies behind the ball. Los Alamitos outshot Millikan 3-1 in the first half, but neither team got a shot on goal until the second half.
“One goal was going to decide it,” said Rossi, who coaches some Millikan players at Beach FC. “If they scored first it could’ve easily gone their way. (Millikan) always gives us a tough time. They’re emotional, gritty and they don’t just touch, they can do both. Much respect to them and their program.”
Millikan (19-4-2) was able to create some scoring chances off corner kicks after halftime, but their best chances were easily handled by Los Alamitos goalkeeper Aurora Schuck and her back line. Schuck had two saves.
“I thought we did enough to contain them and keep this game going to create something,” Nunez said.
The game looked destined for overtime when Salazar collected the ball on the left flank and created the magic moment.
The Rams got a few more half chances from Marshall crosses in the waning minutes, but Millikan couldn’t find the final touch it needed.
After the game, Nunez praised his senior class for their dedication to the growing Millikan girls’ soccer program.
“Our senior class are great leaders by example,” he said. “They’re the first to do everything to show others what a leader is. They obviously left a stamp on the program with everything they’ve contributed over the years… (Josie English) has given everything and that’s kind of what this program is based on, just working and good things will start to happen.”
“I’m proud of everyone I got to play with,” English said. “It was an honor to play for Tino all four years.”
Los Alamitos (19-4-5) will face Harvard-Westlake in the quarterfinals.
In other Moore League action, Wilson lost at Hart 2-1 in the second round of the Division 2 playoffs.