By Jeremy Balan
With a goal in the final minutes from freshman Zoe Charter-Kuo, Lowell High School sent off legendary Head Coach Ernie Ernie Feibusch with his 15th AAA/CIF-San Francisco Section girls soccer title with a 1-0 victory over Washington on Saturday at Boxer Stadium.
The win is the Cardinals 13th consecutive AAA title.
“I was beginning to worry,” Feibusch said. “I didn’t want to go out as a co-champion. I figured I’d go out with a win.”
Charter-Kuo’s goal came in the 78th minute to break a scoreless tie, but was not short of controversy.
With the ball deep in Washington territory, Washington sophomore defender Lisette Montalvo appeared to be clipped in the face with a cleat while trying to clear the ball and was sent to the turf.
Lowell took possession back and Charter-Kuo lobbed a shot from 20 yards out, over leaping Washington goalkeeper Jan Van Hasselt for the go-ahead score.
“I saw a Lowell player’s cleat go way up high and get her right in the chin,” said Washington Head Coach Charles Brinton. “It looks like she bit her lip really bad and got banged in the nose. She went down and the ref didn’t see it and the girls didn’t kick it out or stop play. That’s just the way it goes.”
Lowell, which had gone undefeated in league play until forfeiting three games due to an ineligible player, applied pressure on the Washington defense early and often, controlling possession for most of the game.
“Our opponent was fantastic and we came to our best performance because of them,” said Lowell Assistant Coach Marcos Estebez. “We had a lot of chances and we were overdue. My initial reaction [to Charter-Kuo’s goal] was ‘thank god.’ Everyone out here on the sidelines was just about passed out.”
Washington struggled to get much offense going, but were kept in the game by a standout performance from Van Hasselt, who had 11 huge saves.
“She’s a star,” Brinton said of Van Hasselt. “She’s kept us in it every single time we’ve faced Lowell. She’s been the backbone of our team. She stops everything and for me, she’s the MVP. She’s an even better field player and it pains me to have to keep her in goal, when she can just weave through traffic, but she stops them when we need it most.”
The Lowell pressure was led by sophomore forward Alejandra Sanchez, who made frequent runs into the box, but could not get the ball past Van Hasselt.
“Alejandra and [midfielder Adrienne] Pearce are the heart and soul of the team,” Estebez said. “They were the straws that stirred our drink today. Alejandra was working her butt off to go one against several. She’s an amazing athlete and an extraordinary competitor.”
For Feibusch, who is retiring after coaching at Lowell for 44 years, has won 15-of-17 girls AAA titles since the CIF-SFS began a girls league in 1994.
“It was a very good sendoff,” Feibusch said. “It is time. The girls here are the only reason I came back. They’re all fantastic.”
CIF-SFS Commissioner Don Collins presented Feibusch with the championship trophy and several awards for his contributions to the AAA after the game.
“Ernie is, in many ways, an institution,” Collins said. “He’s was instrumental in founding girls soccer and the Transbay series. He stands for leadership and stands for getting out and confronting a great challenge and doing it the right way. We were really lucky to have him for 44 years.”
Lowell has its soccer field named after Feibusch, but his reach encompassed more than just the school.
“Obviously he’s meant a lot to Lowell and he’s going to be forever remembered,” said Lowell Athletic Director Rob Ray. “What’s more is what he’s meant to the whole city of San Francisco and what he’s meant to soccer, both boys and girls. You really don’t replace a guy like Ernie, you just hope we can walk in his footsteps and continue what he’s started.”
Lowell still hasn’t decided who will succeed Feibusch, but Estebez appears to be a candidate.
“Marc is a very good coach and I just hope they hire him,” Feibusch said. “He is so great and I have my worries that people don’t appreciate him. He’s done most of the work this year, so he deserves the credit.”
While the future is still unclear, Estebez did not hide his intentions.
“I can just say that I’ve sent my resume in,” Estebez said.
Slideshow photos by AJ Canaria and Devin Chen.