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San Luis Obispo gets over the hump in section soccer, beats Clovis North for girls title

The Clovis North High and San Luis Obispo girls soccer teams each know exactly what it’s like to finish just shy of winning a championship.

The disappointing feeling motivated the teams this season after too many runner-up finishes.

Saturday in Fresno, San Luis Obispo was able to finally hoist a plaque and celebrate. And the Tigers did so while competing in their first season in the Central Section.

Olivia Ortiz and Molly Massman each scored in the second half as the third-seeded Tigers beat the top-seeded and host Broncos 2-1 for the Division I championship.

San Luis Obispo (22-2-1), which placed runner-up in the Southern Section D-II championship last season, operated with one less player during the final 9 minutes following a red card.

But the Tigers managed to keep the ball from the Broncos for the most part down the stretch.

“We’ve always been super close to winning,” said Massman, who is one of seven Tigers seniors. “To finally get the reward is amazing and I’m really grateful.

“Our senior class has worked so hard the last four years for this.”

Clovis North (22-3-3), meanwhile, finished as the D-I runner-up for the third time in five seasons.

And if anyone thought the Broncos would feel numb to coming just short again, well, they didn’t tell Clovis North players as many cried afterward and tried to console each other with hugs.

“It’s always a bummer; it’s not fun to lose,” junior Emma Drake said. “We worked hard all season and our goal obviously is to win (a championship).

“It’s definitely frustrating.”

Frustration might be only the first layer of hurt Clovis North coach Nick Pappanduros has endured.

Over the past 11 years, Clovis North has gone 2-5 in championship games. The Broncos’ last title came in 2012 when they competed at D-II.

Pappanduros called this year’s Clovis North team arguably the best he’s coached.

“It is getting frustrating,” Pappanduros said. “It always hurts when you come up a little short.

“But we’re always around every year. It says a lot about these kids and our program. We just came up short.”

Following a scoreless first half, Ortiz got the Tigers on the scoreboard with a goal from about 15 yards out with 26 minutes on the clock.

San Luis Obispo continued to attack and netted another goal on Massman’s kick with 13 minutes remaining.

Needing to play more aggressively from there, Clovis North started taking more chances to generate offense.

A Tigers player was ejected with about 9 minutes remaining for making contact with a Clovis North player who had fallen, and Clovis North’s Taylour Mendoza converted on the ensuing penalty kick to make it 2-1.

But the Broncos struggled to attack further with the Tigers essentially playing keepaway.

“The girls did a great job executing our game plan,” Tigers coach Brittney Viboch said. “It feels really great to finally walk away as a champion.”

Bryant-Jon Anteola is a multimedia reporter for The Fresno Bee, writing stories and producing videos about sports, news and random topics relatable to those in the Fresno area. He’s won a McClatchy President’s Award and received honorable mention by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He enjoys sports because of the competition, camaraderie and energy, and views sports as a microcosm of society.