The highly ranked SLO High School girls soccer team built on speed was stopped in its tracks on a muddy field in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs against Valencia on a rainy Thursday night in San Luis Obispo.
Valencia’s defense, an inability to finish at the net and a controversial call all added up to a loss for San Luis Obispo in a penalty shootout after the game went scoreless through regulation and two overtime periods.
“The girls dominated that game, the whole time,” SLO High head coach Brittney Viboch said of her team that scored 86 goals and had previously lost just once in 22 games this season. “It just comes down to the end and who is going to put the ball in the back of the net. We just couldn’t buy a freaking goal to save our life today.”
After a back-and-forth regulation that saw both teams manufacture good shots on goal on a chewed-up, rain-soaked field, the game moved to overtime with the score tied 0-0. That’s when SLO High ramped up the offensive pressure.
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The Tigers had 10 shots on goal in overtime — Valencia had none. But somehow the Vikings defense held strong.
A breakaway by SLO High speedster Olivia Ortiz in the first overtime period looked like it would advance the Tigers to the next round, but the shot hit the side netting. In the second overtime period, a ball that seemed destined for the net bounced around inside the Valencia 6-yard box before it was cleared. The fans braving the rainy night couldn’t believe it.
“I don’t know how that ball didn’t go in,” Valencia head coach Kevin Goralsky said after the game. “This was like a championship game today. Very intense.”
The penalty shootout continued the trend.
Ortiz was denied by the Valenica goalkeeper on the first attempt. After Emily LeMiere and Maddie Johnson scored the next two SLO High penalty kicks, Amber Nunes missed high on the Tigers’ fourth attempt. Valenica scored on all four of its shots to win the shootout 4-2 and advance to the second round.
The team, which had high postseason expectations following a runner-up finish in the CIF state title game last season, was emotional on the field after the loss.
The game wasn’t without controversy, of course.
Late in the second half, the referee didn’t whistle what appeared to be a blatant hand ball by a Valencia player inside the penalty area that would have given SLO High a penalty kick.
Viboch said the call should have been made and was obviously disappointed by the early exit. Yet she remained optimistic about the future following her first season as head coach.
“I’m going to take away the fact that we still have great girls in the program and great girls coming up,” Viboch said. “This program is going to be good for plenty of years ahead, and that’s exciting.