By Graham Henderson
PACIFICA — As the first half of the CIF-Central Coast Section Division II girls soccer quarterfinals drew to a close, it looked like fourth-seeded St. Ignatius and fifth-seeded and undefeated Del Mar of San Jose would be in for a second half of closely matched play.
But in the waning minutes of the half, St. Ignatius midfielder Kate Bettinger put the Wildcats on the board with a picture-perfect shot from 25 yards out. Bettinger’s shot sailed high, hooked to the left, and went off the fingertips and over the head of Dons goalkeeper Allison Hadidian, into the net.
The goal was just the boost that St. Ignatius (14-8-3) needed, spurring the team to a 3-0 victory over Del Mar (19-1-2) at Terra Nova High School.
According to Bettinger, getting on the board in the first half was critical.
“Once we score, we do much better,” she said. “Once we make the first chance, all the rest just come.”
Bettinger was left unmarked when she scored and Del Mar head coach Ken Padia knew that it was something the Dons would have to watch out for.
“We knew we had to mark her. We knew it ahead of time,” Padia said. “There’s no getting around it — they’re very good. Every one of those girls touches the ball very well.”
Despite the loss, Padia said that this year was the best season in Del Mar’s history.
“Eighty-seven goals this year,” he said. “It’s a fantastic year for us.”
Going into the second half with a 1-0 lead, St. Ignatius coach Carlos Escobar was able to settle the team down and find a rhythm.
“During halftime, we were able to calm down and just play our game,” he said. “The girls were playing their first Central Coast Section game, and nerves were a little on edge.”
The Wildcats got into the CCS tournament with an at-large bid, after losing the West Catholic Athletic League championship game to Mitty.
With the team settled down, it didn’t take long for Duke-bound Audrey Gibson to seal the deal, scoring two goals in the second half.
The Wildcats’ strong midfield passing made Gibson’s first goal a team effort, but her second goal was a one-woman show. Gibson evaded a defender’s tackle, and when the defender fell down, Gibson easily beat Hadidian one-on-one.
“We just woke up,” Gibson said of the second-half surge. “We knew we had to win the game, so we just came out as strong as we could.”
Next up for the Wildcats is top-seeded Aragon (14-2-5) which beat Los Altos 2-0 in another quarterfinal game.