Petaluma girls edge Casa for VVAL soccer title

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The Petaluma High School girls soccer team squeezed out a tough 2-1 win over rival Casa Grande High School in a victory that crowned the Trojans champions of the Vine Valley Athletic League’s inaugural season on the Casa field last week.

The two crosstown rivals came into the game evenly matched, which was apparent in their first clash three weeks ago that ended in a 1-1 draw.

Both teams have put up impressive records this season, especially the Trojans (12-0-3 overall, 8-0-1 VVAL), who haven’t lost a game all season — and the only league game they haven’t won came in the tie with Casa.

The Gauchos (11-5-1 overall, 8-1-1 VVAL), who started the season off slow by losing three of their first four games, have come on strong as of late, going 9-0-1 in their last 10 matches. They entered Wednesday’s contest on a five-game winning streak.

“I think we really got out of our game and never really settled in and possessed the ball and played the way we want to play. Some of that is probably the emotion of playing Petaluma, Senior Night and playing for the league title,” Casa Grande coach Vinnie Cortezzo said after the game.

The second half opened with another defensive battle, as both teams created few opportunities on the offensive end.

But 15 minutes in, Trojan senior midfielder Frances Goughnour drove the ball down the side of the field and sent in a high arcing cross from the right corner that connected perfectly with Athena Edwards, who struck the ball into the goal for her second score of the game and a 2-0 lead.

“Tonight, she was on fire and I think the determination she had up front just to put them under pressure all game was emblematic of what we wanted to do throughout the whole team, and she was a great leader up there,” Petaluma coach Deegan Babala said of Edwards.

The Gauchos did not give up down the stretch, and picked up their offensive attack. Thirty-five minutes into the second half, the referees awarded Casa a penalty kick that Megan Hanley curved past all of Petaluma’s defenders into the goal, reducing Petaluma’s lead to 2-1.

Late into extra time, with the seconds dwindling, the Gauchos became relentless, trying anything they could to get one shot on net — but in the final minutes, the Trojans proved to be too tough and ultimately walked away with the win.

The game started out just as contested as the teams’ last match up. Although Petaluma mostly maintained possession, both defenses were stingy from the first whistle.

Edwards’ penalty kick 17 minutes in got the Trojans on the scoreboard. She found the ball in front of the goal off a couple of deflections and sent it into the back of the net.

Just three minutes after allowing Petaluma’s goal, Gauchos goalkeeper Rebecca Lewis went down with an injury after making a tough save on another shot attempt.

Lewis left the game, and the Gauchos substituted Mallory Jones in her place.

“We don’t have a backup goalkeeper, so you’re sticking a field player in the goal, and she did well — but their second goal, you know it’s probably not one that a goalkeeper gives up,” Cortezzo said.

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