With no sports to cover, prep or otherwise, we’re digging back into the Nado Natterings vault to revive some past articles about Islander championship teams from the past. As a reminder, when this was written, the CIF Sections were determined by a school’s student enrollment. This column is from March 10, 2010, and highlights one of, if not the best, Girls Soccer Team to represent Coronado High School.
By the time the Coronado Girls Soccer Team took to the pitch at Valhalla High School Saturday evening, they were the lone No. 1 seed to advance to the Finals in San Diego County CIF Soccer, Boys or Girls. The Islanders were also ranked No. 2 in the CIF San Diego Section, second only to The Bishop’s School, which handed Coronado their only loss earlier in the season. But Bishop’s fell in the Division IV Semifinals and No. 3 ranked Torrey Pines was an early round Division I playoff victim.
Mixing metaphors, the Islanders were the lone tree standing in the forest, with a target painted on their collective backs the size of the USS Ronald Reagan. If you were looking for additional elements to wring your hands over, Coronado didn’t look particularly sharp in their 1-0 Semifinal victory over Mission Bay. Also, Coronado was going to face La Jolla High School in the Division III Finals, a team the Islanders had knocked off twice already on their way to an undefeated season in the Western League. The Vikings were the same team that defeated Coronado in the Finals a year ago, under similar circumstances, by the score of 4-0.
None of this was lost on Islander Head Coach Kiko Medina as Saturday slowly wound down toward the scheduled 6:30 pm game time. “Honestly, leading up to the game, it was one of the worst days I’ve had. I was nervous all day and I wasn’t comfortable leading into it. The Girls are always kind of chipper and upbeat like typical teenage girls, but in training they seemed really nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. Once again, they proved me wrong. In a weird way they were really focused. There was no question that we were going to win once the game started.”
Coronado struck first, scoring 10 minutes into the game. Medina picks up the narration. “We were fouled 40 yards out. We had been working on set pieces in practice. Mallory Mitchell sent in a great ball and we were just hungry. Danielle Gillberg stepped up and outmuscled everybody and finished for the goal.” According to Medina, both the large metropolitan newspaper and the on-site public address announcer credited both Coronado goals incorrectly.
Gillberg had an interesting odyssey that led to scoring the first goal in the CIF Finals. The senior Co-captain had been injured for three weeks and had not been able to play. In the Mission Bay game, junior forward Kaitlyn Couture injured her left knee and was unable to continue. When a prior season-ending injury to high-scoring forward Lauren Tobin was factored in, the ‘super-deep’ Islander roster was now just ‘deep’ and Gillberg was asked to play more than planned. “Danielle stepped up huge in the Mission Bay game,” Medina said. “She did okay in training. I had to put her in earlier than I wanted to because of Kaitlyn’s injury (at the 20:57 mark of the first half against the Buccaneers). She changed the game for us.”
The game-clinching goal came two minutes into the second half, with Mitchell again starting the play and being credited with the assist. “We talked at halftime with Mallory,” said Medina, employing either the first-person plural, or perhaps referring to his coaching staff. “We talked about taking players on and getting to the ball early. We crashed into the six (the area directly in front of the goal) and Stephanie Hamilton was in the right place and put it in.”
A two-goal lead equated to a championship title for Coronado, as the Islanders had not yielded a goal in the last 10 contests they played, including their three-game run through the playoffs. Goalie Cory De Marco was credited with the shutout.
Medina discussed other contributors to the victory. “We received big play from our center midfield. Senior Co-Captain Stefanie Pietkiewicz was consistent as always. Cassie Callahan, Demi Waitley, Katie Centeno and Gillberg all stepped up. The best two performances of the night were from Brianne Clifford and Mariah Stacy. Brianne organized out of the back well. Between her and Mariah, I don’t remember a legit shot that Cory had to save. The defense did a phenomenal job last night. La Jolla is a dangerous team and we just completely shut them down. Honestly, everybody stepped up. It was a weird feeling going into it, but we got to play everybody, which was great. They worked their butts off and they really, really wanted it. It’s tough being the No. 1 seed and having those expectations. Not just from me, but them too.”
You would logically think that this was the conclusion of the soccer season, but not so fast. Now comes the CIF Regional Tournament which combines the best teams from all of Southern California into a dizzying array of divisions. As an example, Coronado (21-1-3) which is the Division III San Diego Section Champion and the queens of all they survey, now competes in Division II for the purposes of Regional competition. West Hills, the San Diego CIF Division II champion is in the same Regional division. Seriously, I couldn’t make that up. As a point of information, Northern California teams play girls soccer during the fall months and don’t compete in this event.
Coronado earned the No. 1 seed, which means they host Sierra Vista (24-3) from Baldwin Park and the CIF Southern Section Tuesday at 4 pm. If Coronado defeats the No. 8 seed, they will host a Regional Semi-Final game Thursday, again at 4 p.m. The Regional Finals will be played at Warren High School at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, March 13.