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Sutter girls claim 8th straight section title
Erika Linch may have grabbed all the headlines this season, but Sutter High's run to an eighth consecutive Northern Section girls soccer championship was every bit a team effort.
From the scoring of Linch and midfielder Jayden Garcia, to the sensational back-row play of Jenna Lewis, to freshman goalkeeper Devan Reische's clutch save in the waning moments, the Huskies' 2-1 victory over Orland in the Division II title game on Saturday proved that Sutter is much more than just a one-girl show.
And the thing is, they're only going to get better.
With eight freshmen seeing significant playing time and just one senior on the roster, the Huskies seem primed to make another run at the title next year — and that's just fine with Sutter coach Jeff Stanhope.
"I challenged them to raise their level of play in this game and they all did that," he said. "Everyone did their part like I told them to do. We had a total team effort today."
And boy was it ever.
After falling behind 1-0 following a goal by Orland senior Marlene Gutierrez in the match's 10th minute, the Huskies immediately answered back when Garcia hustled to a loose ball and found the back of the net to knot things up just a minute later.
Sutter (19-3-1) went on to outshoot the Trojans 10-2 in the first half, but didn't take the lead for good until the 27th minute of the match when Linch notched her 66th goal of the season.
The Huskies' standout junior had her initial shot blocked by Orland goalkeeper Esme Esquivel, but Linch stayed with the play, followed her shot and flicked it in to give Sutter the lead.
Sutter's shots on goal became limited in the second half with a stiff breeze blowing against them, but Garcia, Hailey Fear, Kelsey Graham and Alyson Zoellin controlled the midfield to keep the Trojan offense at bay.
On the few occasions Orland was able to work the ball past Sutter's midfielders, the backline of Lewis, Martina Damboriena, Andrea Little and Madalyn Tarke formed an impenetrable wall and turned them back each time.
However, the match wasn't without some late drama.
In one of Sutter's few miscues, Orland had a chance to equalize late when Yaneth Munoz took a long pass ahead and found herself in a one-on-one situation with Reische. But the freshman keeper would have none of it, and stoned Munoz at the net in what proved to be the biggest play of the day.
"That was huge. She saved the game for us right there," Stanhope said. "I told them that everyone had to step up and play — even the freshmen — and to have a freshman make that play, that was unbelievable."
Orland (16-6-2) tried desperately to tie things up in the final minutes, but once again Lewis and Sutter's defense held strong to preserve the victory.
"We had a couple of shots at the end, but we didn't put it in the net," Orland coach Tim Milhorn said. "Sutter's a good team and they've proven that over the years. Technically, they're solid and obviously they have what it takes to win a championship."
Once the final whistle sounded, the Huskies gathered around Linch for a group hug and celebrated their hard-earned victory. They posed for a series of pictures with friends and family and received their championship patches yet again.
"Our team has come together so well. We're a family and we work together, both offense and defense," Lewis said. "None of us could've done this alone. We're a team and it took all of us."
And so the beat goes on for the Huskies, who have won a section record eight consecutive championships, including four straight Division I titles from 2006-2009.
"Everybody did their part, and when a player went down, another one stepped up and did the job," Stanhope said. "They deserve all the credit. They're the ones who did it."
CONTACT Andy Arrenquin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4790. Find him on Facebook at advarsitysports or on Twitter at @ADaarrenquin.