High School Sports

Ozzimo’s hat trick leads Nipomo to wild-card playoff win in girls soccer

Nipomo High’s Cristina Ozzimo, center, looks to pass to teammate Denise Belmontes against the La Cañada defense during Tuesday’s game in Nipomo.
Nipomo High’s Cristina Ozzimo, center, looks to pass to teammate Denise Belmontes against the La Cañada defense during Tuesday’s game in Nipomo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

On a day when Cristina Ozzimo was faced with the possibility of playing her final Nipomo High soccer game, she made sure to do her part to play at least one more. 

Ozzimo scored three goals in the second half, and Nipomo won 4-2 in a CIF-Southern Section Division 5 wild-card match against La Cañada at home Tuesday.

With the hat trick, the senior has 30 goals on the season and extended the Titans’ playoff campaign. 

Nipomo next plays Thursday on the road against Ontario Christian, which won the Desert Valley League. 

Kaitlyne Fernandez scored the only first-half goal in the game for the Titans, her seventh of the season. 

The score came on a free kick from just outside the box in the 10th minute on a shot that sailed over a wall of defenders and into the back of the net.

For the majority of the game, the Titans put the pressure on the Spartans, allowing few shots on goal, though two defensive breakdowns led to scores late in the game. 

Nipomo coach Josh Lee said that, even though Tuesday’s contest wasn’t the Titans’ best performance, his players have come on strong in the past couple of weeks. 

“We’ve been playing well of late,” Lee said. “I thought it wasn’t our best game today, but we were able to do a lot of good things to get the win and move on.”

Lee said Ozzimo’s strengths include her ability to get through the last line of defense with her speed, which couldn’t be matched by any player for La Cañada.

After a first half that saw few shots on goal by either team, Ozzimo started finding some holes against the Spartans.

“They had a very well-organized defense,” Lee said. “But the difference was Cristina’s quickness.” 

Ozzimo’s first goal was assisted by Denise Belmontes, who handled a short goal kick and dumped the ball to her teammate in the 48th minute for a right-footed score. 

Then in the 67th minute, the senior forward took a pass near the sideline from Briana Ayala. With a clever first touch, Ozzimo pushed the ball ahead and outran a defender to set up a low strike under the arm of the diving La Cañada goalkeeper that found the net.

In the 74th minute, Fernandez assisted Ozzimo by stopping a ball heading for the sideline in the Spartans territory. Fernandez then crossed it to present a clean look in front of the goal that Ozzimo punched in. 

“It was an amazing game,” Ozzimo said. “It doesn’t matter who scores. We just try to play together and set up whoever is in position to get the goal.”

Titans goalkeeper Yocelyn Lopez didn’t see a lot of action but had four saves.

The two goals for La Cañada came on defensive miscommunications that allowed clean looks, but Nipomo’s lead was never seriously threatened.

Nipomo’s defensive backfield, led by Bryce Turk, Gracie Albano and Sam Trejo, won several battles for possession as the Spartans tried to advance the ball close to the Titans’ goal with little success for much of the game.

On Thursday, Nipomo will seek to improve upon last year’s season in which the Titans also won a wild-card game but lost their next game. 

“I think we’ll just have to come out strong,” Fernandez said. “We know we’ll be playing a good team and we’ll have to bring our best.”