By Bonta Hill
In the Academic Athletic Association girls soccer semifinal on Wednesday, Lincoln High School forward Katja Wiles scored the game’s first goal 40 seconds into their contest against Mission High School.
Although the Mustangs would tack on two more goals late in the second half, including another by Wiles, her first goal turned out to be the only one needed, as the Mustangs advanced to Saturday’s AAA championship with a 3-0 win over the Bears at Boxer Stadium.
“We knew we wanted it and we’ve been trying to make [the championship for so long],” said an exuberant Wiles. “It means so much [for the school].”
Lincoln’s (14-2-1) opponent in the championship game will be heavily-favored and undefeated Lowell, the winner of the last 13 AAA titles.
However, Lincoln head coach David McPherson assured that his team won’t be intimidated, noting that his club played Lowell tough in a 1-0 semifinal loss last season.
“Lowell is undefeated, and their goal differential is unbelievable,” McPherson said. “We just have to hang with them. They knocked us out of the playoffs last year, but this is the championship. It’ll be different and we’ll be ready to play.”
Lincoln controlled the first half action and it paid off with Wiles’ early goal, but the Mustangs could only generate that one score in the half, as Mission goalkeeper Laura Ramirez was outstanding in net, putting a halt to many Mustang opportunities.
Lincoln midfielder Leah Saucedo-Dempsey had one-on-one chances in the eighth and 35th minutes, but Ramirez stepped up to block both of those attempts to keep the Bears (11-5-1) in the game.
“Ramirez was great in goal, and if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t even be in contention,” said Mission head coach Scott Kennedy. “[Lincoln] played really well though, and you have to give them credit. We just couldn’t get a lucky break [or] a lucky bounce.”
Fortunate to be down 1-0 at halftime, the Bears were determined to get back into the game and controlled the first 20 minutes of the second half.
The Bears chance to tie it came in the 70th minute, when midfielder Yessenia Aguilar broke free with a clear path to the goal, but couldn’t get off a solid shot.
That was Mission’s last chance to tie, because three minutes later Lincoln defender Zandalee Agudelo took control of a loose ball, dribbled 55 yards and scooped a shot past Ramirez to extend the lead to 2-0.
“If Aguilar’s shot goes into the net, it’s 1-1, we have the momentum and it’s whole different ballgame,” Kennedy said. “All in all, it was a great season. We improved along the way and I think we did a great job to get [to the playoffs].”
Wiles put the icing on the cake for Lincoln with a chip-in goal off of Suacedo-Dempsy’s miss in the 79th minute.
“We knew coming in Mission was a good team, we beat them the last time we played them and it was a good battle,” McPherson said. “Mission scored on us the first two minutes the last time we played them, so we wanted to come out and set the tone.”
L – 1st minute – Katja Wiles
L – 73rd minute – Zandalee Agudelo
L – 79th minute – Wiles