The defense is as strong as ever, and the offense has hit its stride.
The Arroyo Grande High girls soccer team is the league’s best once again and ready to repeat — or improve upon — last year’s run to the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 quarterfinals.
The Eagles, who struggled to score just one goal earlier this year, scored four times for the second straight game in Wednesday’s PAC 7-clinching 4-0 shutout at Paso Robles.
“We realized that if we wanted (the league title), we couldn’t be soft,” senior co-captain Alyssa Nevis said. “We definitely took into account that even a tie (Friday) would just hurt us. We knew we needed a win.”
Junior Kiana Parker scored twice for the second consecutive game, sophomore Brie Welch netted her team-leading eighth tally, and senior co-captain Christina Lang ripped a shot from 25 yards away off a feed from Julianna Trevino.
“Insane,” Lang said when asked how the shot felt. “Once I saw Julianna had it, I was just screaming for her to drop it for me.
“I’ve had a few of those and missed them, but that one, I knew I was going to get in.”
Lang’s goal was a fitting exclamation point on an undefeated league campaign.
Arroyo Grande (15-4-4, 9-0-3 PAC 7) had just 14 goals through 10 league matches prior to Monday’s showdown with rival San Luis Obispo. The 4-2 triumph over the Tigers marked the most the Eagles scored in league this year — a feat they duplicated against Paso Robles (12-11, 3-8).
The Bearcats, who started 10 seniors in their final home game, kept things close early thanks to big saves from sophomore goalie Natalya Marcove and passing combinations by seniors Karolina Rendon and Emilee Brown.
But Parker put the Eagles on the board two minutes before halftime, when she muscled her way through the
Paso Robles defense and in on goal. She collided with Marcove, but stayed on her feet to meet the ball — and teammate Richelle Knupper — at the wide open goal mouth. Knupper held back to let Parker reap the rewards of her individual effort.
“Parker just keeps outhustling everybody,” Arroyo Grande coach Bob Wilson said. “Overall, this is just a really fun group of girls.”
Parker scored again on a cross from Welch 10 minutes into the second half before Welch intercepted a pass five minutes later and converted her left-footed shot to put the Eagles up 3-0.
Lang’s blast, with 12 minutes remaining, completed the scoring. Sarah Doughty and Kendall Bowers, both seniors, split time in goal and made the few saves necessary to preserve the shutout.
Now the Eagles’ attention turns to the playoffs, where they are guaranteed a home game and are eager to avenge last year’s quarterfinal loss in overtime at Oaks Christian.
“This team has been able to step up in the big games at the end of the season,” Wilson said. “We’ve gone from scoring one or two goals to three and four, and we’ve still got a solid defense.
“We’re going to be in every game we have. And if you keep us in the game, we’re going to have a chance to win.”
Paso Robles 4, Arroyo Grande 1
The Bearcats (11-11, 4-7 PAC 7) snapped a four-game losing streak in a big way — much to the delight of teams from San Luis Obispo and Pioneer Valley.
The Eagles (14-6-2, 9-3) could have clinched at least a share of the league title with a win, but their loss opens the door for either the Tigers or Panthers — or both — to win the PAC 7.
Tied at 1 in the second half, Paso Robles scored three unanswered goals starting with a curling shot from just outside the 18-yard-box from Josue Ojeda midway through the half.
Kirby Walton followed two minutes later, when a throw-in by Ben Mecham bounced across the box and all the way to Walton, who headed it by goalie Danny Montero.
Marcus Joel Millan put the finishing touches on the victory by shielding off a defender and placing the ball in the lower left corner of the goal with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Juan Carlos Ruiz played the entire game in goal for the Bearcats, making six saves. The only goal he conceded came seven minutes after halftime, when Arroyo Grande freshman Hosanna Cassidy converted a pass from Miguel Fregoso.
Paso Robles’ Rafael Roman opened the scored in the 36th minute, taking a pass into the 18-yard box from Jose Cuara before slotting the ball into the left side of the net.
The Eagles can still earn a share of the PAC 7 title if both Pioneer Valley and San Luis Obispo lose Friday.