PALMDALE — The Palmdale Aerospace Academy girls soccer team fought hard for all 80 minutes of its CIF-Southern Section Division 7 second-round playoff game against Jurupa Valley at Palmdale High School on Friday.
The two teams were evenly matched, but the Jaguars slipped one in the goal for a 1-0 victory over the Griffins.
“I think we played great,” TPAA coach Victor Otieno said. “When we touched the ball, we moved the ball well. We didn’t clear a lot of opportunities to take shots, which we should have because we can put the ball away. Both sides were a little bit tight.”
The two teams were scoreless at the half as both squads had strong defenses with tough goalkeepers. Palmdale Aerospace goalie Adorian Robbins made several leaping and diving saves in the first half, while Jurupa Valley’s goalkeeper also made it difficult for the Griffins (17-3-4) to score.
“We tried. We got a couple of chances, but it wasn’t enough to finish,” Otieno said. “But, for me, the girls played well. They gave it 110 percent, they touched the ball, they moved. Their goalkeeper, she saved a lot of shots.”
Jurupa Valley’s goal came in the 63rd minute when the Jaguars (13-8-3) were awarded a free kick. The kick flew into the hands of Robbins, who jumped to make an impressive stop. She bumped the ball with her hands and as she tried to grab a hold of it, she crossed the goal line. The ball bounced on the ground and was kicked in by Jurupa Valley’s Grace Covey, but the referee said the goal came on the first kick.
“We tried our best to not let them score, but it was one foul and they had a lucky shot,” said junior defender Crystal Molina.
The Griffins picked up the pace after that goal and played hard until the whistle trying to get that one back.
They had a PK with 9:35 left that sailed over the goal.
Then, just seconds before the end of the game was signaled by the referee, another penalty kick went straight toward the goal, but Jurupa Valley’s goalkeeper again made a good save.
“It was a challenging game and we tried as hard as we can,” TPAA senior Araceli Castaneda said. “But, sometimes, that’s what soccer is, both teams can’t win and hopefully we can learn from this.”
Palmdale Aerospace played mostly even with Jurupa Valley throughout the game despite a sizable height difference. The Griffins are on the shorter side with their tallest player at 5 feet, 7 inches. The Jaguars towered over the Griffins.
“We have a small team, not a lot of big girls, not a lot of speed, but I told them we have to play smart, kick the ball, play feet and they did that a lot, so I’m proud of them,” Otieno said.
That height difference threw off the Griffins in the first half.
“I feel like the nerves got to us in the beginning,” Castaneda said. “Everyone was playing scared, because them being tall was kind of intimidating.”
The Griffins’ four defenders — Molina, senior team captain Telia Bridges, junior Arly Sanchez and senior Tiffany Higuera, all played strong in the backfield. They were often able to stop shots from getting close to the goal.
“These girls give everything,” Otieno said about his entire team.
The loss was tough on the team, but especially for the Griffins’ seven seniors, who weren’t ready for their season to be over after making it to the quarterfinals last year. They aren’t ready to leave their teammates.
“(I’ll miss) the girls, because they’re like a family,” Castaneda said while fighting back tears.
Bridges, who was celebrating her birthday on Friday, added she would also miss her teammates.
“My girls, I call them my daughters,” she said.
The Griffins had a successful season, which included winning the talent-heavy Hart Tournament in December and winning their second straight Heritage League championship.
“I’m proud of the team that I was a part of this year,” Molina said.
Though they will miss the seniors, the players who are returning next season are looking to keep going with the program’s tradition of winning.
“We’re looking forward to moving forward,” Molina said.