The Saints have hit their stride.
Santa Maria’s girls soccer team raised its level of play once again Tuesday, rolling to a 3-0 win over Gardena in the first round of the CIF State SoCal Regional Division 5 playoffs.
The Saints were buzzing all over the pitch with junior Yvette Abundiz’s two goals book-ending freshman Vida Delgado’s goal.
Santa Maria, the CIF Central Section Division 5 champ, will play at Ventura St. Bonaventure Thursday in the semifinals of the CIF SoCal Regional. St. Bonaventure beat Arvin 3-0 Tuesday. Santa Maria is the No. 4 seed. The Seraphs are the top seed.
The Saints improved to 13-2-1 on the season with the win over Gardena in a game played in front of a large crowd at Ralph Baldiviez Stadium as Santa Maria High was allowed to up the facility’s capacity. Attendance had been limited to immediate family at home games.
The Saints claimed the CIF Central Section Division 5 title with a 3-2 win at Kerman last Friday. Gardena made the CIF SoCal Regional after winning the CIF LA City Section Division 4 championship last week.
The Saints rallied from a 2-1 deficit late in the game against Kerman to win 3-2 with Abundiz serving Delgado the winning goal on a corner kick.
It’s the first CIF title in girls soccer for the school that’s one of the oldest in the state. The Saints have won five straight games, outscoring opponents 14-3 since a loss to Nipomo that gave the Titans the outright Ocean League championship.
“I’m speechless over the turnout,” Santa Maria coach Cristian Alvarez said after Tuesday’s win played in front of the large and loud crowd. “I’ve never seen this for a girls soccer game. The atmosphere was phenomenal.”
The fans in attendance had plenty to cheer about. Abundiz, Delgado, Paola Diaz, the Saints’ top goal-scorer, Lizbeth Velasquez, Daniela Mendoza and Jocelyn Santiago sliced up the Gardena defense. The Saints put at least a dozen solid scoring chances on goal.
Gardena rarely put a serious challenge on goal against Saints keeper Arely Duran. The game turned into more of a celebration for the Saints’ first CIF title.
“It’s amazing because of all the hard work that we put in at practice,” Diaz said. “The work paid off and we showed what we can do.”
Diaz said the team started preparing for this shortened spring season just two weeks before the first game. The Saints haven’t played like it. They’ve outscored their opponents 42-8 on the season and have lost just twice in 16 games.
Diaz was also impressed with the large crowd that attended the game and celebrated the school’s first CIF girls soccer title.
“It’s something new and something we’ve never experienced,” Diaz said. “We usually get a little crowd and now the whole crowd is unreal. The CIF final on Friday, that game was so intense. We didn’t think we were going to come back, but we picked our heads up and pushed until the end of the game.”
Abundiz said she’s still having a difficult time processing the history she and her teammates made last Friday with the win in Fresno County.
“To be the first girls team to win a championship, it’s still so unreal to me,” Abundiz said. “I don’t even know what to feel. It’s amazing, it’s crazy. To see all of our supporters here is such a big plus to our game. We wanted to show them that we’re doing it for our school and we’re doing it for Santa Maria.”
With a historic CIF title in hand, the Saints can still make more history with Thursday’s regional semifinal. St. Bonaventure is 10-3-1 on the season. The Seraphs won the CIF Southern Section Division 6 title with a 1-0 overtime win over Temecula Linfield Christian on Friday.
The winner of Thursday’s semifinal will play the winner of the Elsinore-Linfield semifinal on Saturday for the regional title, the closest thing to a state championship.