By Jeremy Balan
Lincoln High School’s girls soccer team stayed with 14-time defending Academic Athletic Association champion Lowell in the first half on Tuesday.
Literally seconds into the second half, however, the Cardinals changed the whole dimension of the game and cruised to a 4-0 win at Lincoln.
Lowell’s Zoe Charter-Kuo scored 20 seconds into the second half, her first of two goals in the final 40 minutes, to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.
“They sent us a message in the first half and the message was received,” said Lowell head coach Marcos Estebez. “They’re the best team we’ve played in the AAA so far. It was a good match and they made us work.”
Lowell senior forward Alejandra Sanchez scored in the first half on a free kick from 20 yards out, sophomore Cate Stern added a goal in the 54th minute and Charter-Kuo ended the scoring with an unlikely goal in the 57th.
The junior worked her way into the right-hand corner in Lincoln’s defensive zone and she appeared to send a high-arcing crossing pass toward the face of the net. The ball sailed over Lincoln goalkeeper Angie Mendoza’s head, bounced once and went into the left side of the net.
“Sometimes the goal gods are with you,” Estebez said. “I don’t think that she planned it that way, but it was fantastic.”
Mendoza was one of the lone bright spots for the Mustangs (6-1-3 in AAA play), which suffered their first loss in AAA play this season, but still hold onto first place in the league’s Heinline Division.
The sophomore goalkeeper only had four saves, but consistently knocked away crossing passes and cut off long Lowell runs beyond the Lincoln back line.
“She played with heart and she was looking forward to this game,” said Lincoln assistant coach Jose Ricardo Menendez said. “Everyone looks forward to playing Lowell and I just told her to have fun.”
Lincoln only had one shot on goal (from 35 yards out in the first half) and the Cardinals (10-0 in AAA play) have outscored AAA opponents 60-0 this season. Lowell hasn’t allowed a goal in league play since a 6-1 win over Galileo on April 21, 2011.
The Lowell defense doesn’t get a ton of work due to the Cardinals dominating possession, but they also don’t make mistakes when an opposing team gets an opportunity.
“We have a freshman and a sophomore back there,” Estebez said. “I sometimes compare it to being a policeman, where you are waiting for action and you have to be ready to go. Today, on this field that was really squirrely, its a mistake away from getting beyond you.”
The Cardinals were missing 11 players from their normal roster, most to illness but three to in-house suspensions, and both Estebez and Menendez are confident the teams will meet in the league championship game in May.
“We expect to see them in the championship and it’s going to be a different game,” Menendez said. “It’s going to be fun.”