Watsonville junior striker Gabby Felix (5) steals the ball from a North Salinas defender during the first half of their Monterey Bay League Pacific division soccer game on Wednesday in Salinas. — Tony Nunez/Register-Pajaronian
SALINAS — Wednesday was Ina Gonzalez’s 18th birthday.
After the game, she received a shirt, some cash and a present she’s been patiently waiting for since her freshman year: a Monterey Bay League Pacific division championship.
Watsonville’s star senior keeper made 12 saves and junior striker Gabby Felix scored two goals to power Watsonville past host North Salinas, 2-0, to their first league title since the 2011-12 season.
“Every year this has been our goal but toward sophomore year that dream just faded away,” said Gonzalez, who suffered through a pair of losing seasons during her first two years with Watsonville. “Now it’s good to know that we were able to do it. We’re there.”
The win, which was Watsonville’s (11-3-4, 9-1-1) sixth in its last seven games, not only clinches the historic league title but it also guarantees the Wildcatz a spot in the upcoming Central Coast Section playoffs. They will learn who they play at this weekend’s seeding meeting.
Watsonville head coach Gladys Mondragon, who has had multiple CCS appearances as the Wildcatz’ leader, said her group will need to continue to improve in order to notch the program’s first-ever playoff win.
“It’s not about just showing up to CCS, it’s about going out there and playing soccer,” Mondragon said. “We’ve been working on it the whole season — we’ve been putting it in their heads — and, luckily, now we can really work on it because we know we’re in there.”
Watsonville struggled mightily to keep possession in the middle of the field and did not do much better on defense. But Gonzalez bailed out her team time and again.
The future Cal State East Bay Pioneer not only finished with double-digit saves but exited the goal multiple times to deny the Vikings’ (13-4-1, 7-3-1) quickly-developing, long-ball attacks.
She was extremely busy late in the first half and early in the second, making a trio of saves on each occasion.
“They’re a really aggressive team and they play the long ball well,” Gonzalez said. “They’re tricky.”
The story was much different on the other end for the Wildcatz, who leaned heavily on Felix to carry the offense with junior midfielder Annalee Robledo relegated to the defense after the first five minutes.
Felix converted her first look at goal by heading in Robledo’s perfectly placed corner kick five minutes in and cleaned up a misplayed ball in the 27th minute to make it 2-0.
Watsonville had very few opportunities in the second half, as North Salinas put constant offensive pressure with their athletic duo of forwards, senior Samantha Vargas and junior Dennise Torres-Alfaro. They also double teamed Felix, who now has 25 goals on the season, holding her to just one shot over the final 40 minutes.
“Teams are starting to notice that they mostly give it to me,” Felix said. “They put a majority of the defense on me but it’s also an advantage for us. It opens things up for my teammates.”
Watsonville needed just a tie with second-place North Salinas to clinch at least a share of the title. A loss would have made Friday night’s regular-season finale against North Monterey County a must-win.
They made sure they handled their business on Wednesday.
“All the work that they’ve done and their dedication to the season has paid off,” Mondragon said. “They were focused all the way through.”For the complete article see the 02-16-2017 issue.
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