The San Luis Obispo High girls soccer team already got one monkey off its back, beating Santa Monica last week to advance to the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.
After dispatching Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana 3-1 at home on Wednesday, the Tigers will have a chance at ridding themselves of another demon Friday.
“We’ve never made it past the quarters,” San Luis Obispo coach John Clarke said. “We’re 0-4 there.
“That’s been our goal all along this year, was to get past the quarters because once you do, there’s only four teams left (and anything can happen).”
Calvary Chapel (17-4-1) seemed content to dump and chase, hoping the San Luis Obispo defenders would make a mistake on a wet, sloppy field.
“The field being like this was a nice pitch for us to play on today,” Clarke said.
“We knew the weather was going to be wet. But these girls don’t mind playing in wet weather.”
Off the opening kick of the game, the Eagles immediately put the ball deep into the Tigers’ half and applied pressure.
It nearly worked.
Calvary Chapel forced a corner that led to a header from leading scorer Danielle Duron that whistled just wide of the net.
But San Luis Obispo eventually broke through the pressure and found a lot of open space in the opposing half, leading to a scramble in the box and a goal from Laura Kraemer.
The Eagles’ strategy finally paid off midway through the first half. A San Luis Obispo defender slipped, losing possession of the ball and allowing Calvary Chapel to tie the score.
But the Tigers (15-3-4) fought back quickly.
Just three minutes later, Julie Howsmon snuck to the back post and found herself all alone with the goalkeeper after the ball deflected to her foot.
“I was really scared,” Howsmon recalled. “I was all focused and I stuck my tongue out to the side and was thinking, ‘I don’t want to shank this.’
“I got lucky, I feel like, because I don’t think I kicked it very hard but it went right past her hands.”
With the field in various states of solidity, several players lost their balance at times, canceling what looked like possible scoring chances and creating opportunities the other way.
“A couple weeks ago we played and it was pure mud,” Howsmon said. “We got sort of lucky today that with all the rain it wasn’t sort of like a lake.”
Tess Wearda put the game away for San Luis Obispo, firing a shot that bounced up and deflected off the Calvary Chapel goalkeeper and into the net for the final tally.
The Tigers will get their shot at advancing past the quarterfinals for the first time when they host Troy (18-2-5) of Fullerton on Friday.The Tigers won a coin flip to determine the host site and nobody could be happier to be staying at home for the quarterfinals than Howsmon.
“I’m excited because our first round of CIF we had to drive all the way down (to Santa Monica),” Howsmon said.
“I got thrown up on, on the bus. I was sleeping and I woke up and there was a girl on top of me and throw up all over my blanket. So I’m really happy to get to be home. Hopefully there’s no throwing up this time.”