Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Members of the Los Altos High girls soccer team celebrate their victory over St. Francis High in Saturday’s Central Coast Section Division II final at Valley Christian.
For the second time in as many games, Los Altos High’s Allie Crum made the biggest goal of her prep career. The first one beat No. 1 Mitty in the Central Coast Section Division II girls soccer semifinals and the second topped St. Francis in the title game.
The underdog Eagles edged the Lancers 1-0 on Crum’s free kick in the seventh minute of Saturday’s final at Valley Christian in San Jose.
“My coach said challenge the goalkeeper, because we hadn’t seen her do many saves yet, so that’s what I did,” Crum said, “and it worked.”
The sophomore may have received a little help from the Lancers – movement in their wall of defenders apparently interfered with goalie Jacquelyn Caginia’s ability to track the shot – but Crum couldn’t have struck the ball much better.
“Anytime Allie has a free kick 10 yards outside the box, there’s no point in her doing anything finesse,” Los Altos coach Armando Luna said. “She’s got a phenomenal power shot and (we ask her to) just challenge the goalkeepers and see if they can stop it, and again today she blew it right by them.”
Once the fifth-seeded Eagles (13-5-3) took the lead, they did everything they could to keep it. Los Altos crowded the backfield, giving No. 2 St. Francis (18-4-1) little space to set up a shot.
The same formula worked three days earlier when Los Altos pulled off perhaps the biggest shocker of the CCS playoffs. The Eagles stunned defending champ and unbeaten Mitty – ranked third in the nation – on a first-half goal from Crum, assisted by Sophia Hyver.
“We were definitely the underdogs for Mitty,” said Crum, whose team starts just one senior. “But once we beat them, we knew we could do it. I think we had a little more confidence this time, which helped us.”
St. Francis controlled the ball for most of Saturday’s game and took more shots, but Los Altos stuck to its defense-first game plan and persevered.
“It’s been the recipe for us all season – very organized in the back and hard work in the midfield, and we take the opportunities we get and then hold on,” Luna said.
The Lancers’ best shot at tying the match came in the second half with just under nine minutes showing on the clock. Cristina Polini crossed the ball just past diving goalie Carrie Wendelken, and Caroline Olivero’s ensuing shot hit the goalpost.
“I was scared to death,” said freshman Wendelken, whose twin sister Tess starts at forward for the Eagles. “I’m, like, ‘I can’t give up now – I’ve got to get up.’ When I saw it hit the post, I’m, like, ‘relief.’”
Wendelken made four saves Saturday, which included the deflection of a free kick by St. Francis standout Annie Kingman approximately three minutes after Crum’s goal.
“I think it’s good that she’s a freshman right now,” Luna said of Wendelken, who split time in goal with sophomore Elena Strawn until late in the season, “because her inexperience and innocence doesn’t allow the pressure to get to her in these games.”
Not that Wendelken didn’t feel pressure facing a St. Francis team that scored 71 goals this season.
“It was tough and my heart was racing the whole time,” she said. “It was just a ton of work. I really want to thank my defense, because they were so strong and solid.”
Crum couldn’t have agreed more.
“It’s the defense,” she said in explaining the Eagles’ success. “It’s always the defense. Our overall team defense wins the games. Our goalie is amazing.”
While St. Francis coach Dawn Hill praised Los Altos’ effort, she lamented missed opportunities by her Lancers.
“I never thought we got into a flow like we’re used to,” she said. “We created chances – and we had seven corners – but we weren’t able finish any of them.”