WATSONVILLE — Needing at least a tie to clinch the program’s first league title in four years, Monte Vista Christian had some pregame jitters when it arrived at Emmett M. Geiser Field on Wednesday.
Most of them were gone by the time first touch came around.
The rest were fully flushed by half time.
M.V.C. scored five goals in the first 40 minutes to cruise past Pajaro Valley, 5-1, and clinch the Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress division crown.
Freshman midfielder Jana Komposch scored twice, and forward sophomore Shayna Lebovitz, junior defender Emily Edgerle and senior striker Kailey Morrell also scored to push the Mustangs to 12-2-4 overall and 10-0-2 in PCAL-C action.
“I think this is huge,” said M.V.C. junior defender Sophia Bessa. “Coming out of the last couple of years, it’s been hard to field a team like we have. I feel like this year has been such a big turning point for us.”
M.V.C. last season finished 10-4-5 overall, but took third in the now-defunct Monterey Bay League Pacific division with a 6-3-3 record. The two years prior, it finished under .500 overall, and never placed higher than fifth in the MBL-Gabilan.
But this year’s youthful group, which featured five starting underclassmen, led the Mustangs to their second title of the decade, and also produced the program’s first 12-win season since the 2014-15 team — the last league-champion.
“It’s inspiring watching them work hard when it’s pouring rain or hail, and they’re outside running through mud,” said M.V.C. fourth-year coach Morgan Miller. “I’ve got a really unique and special group of girls this year, so it definitely feels good, for sure, but it’s because I know what it means to them.”
By winning the league championship, M.V.C. also earned the PCAL-C’s lone automatic berth to the upcoming Central Coast Section playoffs.
The Mustangs could be awarded a home playoff game when the seedings are determined next week, but with dozens of games still to be played over the coming days it is too early to predict what the future holds for the league champs — although some recent projections have the small private school competing in the Division I bracket against behemoths like San Benito, St. Francis-Mountain View and Menlo.
Regardless of the matchup, M.V.C. knows the degree of difficulty will undoubtedly be higher when the postseason begins.
“We’re going to be facing a lot harder teams, and we need to keep the intensity really high for those games,” Bessa said. “We’ve been able to score a good amount of goals this season, and it won’t be that easy in CCS.”
Pajaro Valley, meanwhile, fell to 0-10-2 overall and 0-8-2 in PCAL-C play despite another solid performance from Jasmin Castillo.
The sophomore striker scored her 13th goal of the season on an M.V.C. defensive mistake, but was kept in check for most of the night thanks to the Mustangs’ swarming defense, which has produced eight league shutouts.
“They know how to cover for each other, and I think that’s a big part of their success,” Castillo said. “When they lose the ball, they all drop back and they know how to work together as a team.”
That defensive success is in no small part because of Bessa, who this winter has been a major cog of M.V.C.’s prosperity despite not scoring a single goal. The second-year varsity starter figures to be on the short list of candidates for league M.V.P.
“Sometimes defenders get underplayed in those type of things because they’re not getting the record-breaking goals scored, but she’s been a staple,” Miller said. “If there was a game that she wasn’t there, it’d be nerve racking for me and the whole team. Knowing she’s back there, it’s a sense of confidence. She brings a calmness.”
And she’s brought plenty of winning, too.
“It’s really humbling that I can stand out to other people like that,” Bessa said. “It never really occurs to me that other people look at my game like that. I try to play my game, and do the best for me and my team — especially my team.”