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Sutter girls claim 9th straight title
Huskies blast Orland 4-0 for D-II crown
Jayden Garcia jumped high enough for Erika Linch to catch and embrace her for a moment. They knew it was the final time they would celebrate a combo goal together wearing a Sutter High uniform.
It's a difficult realization for two players who have combined for 270 goals and 91 assists over four years.
Their last one took place with just minutes remaining in the Northern Section Division II title game on Saturday as Garcia chipped it off to an in-stride Linch in the box. Beating her last defender on the left side of the goal, Linch slid, booted it with her left foot and watched the ball sail into the corner of the net.
The goal sealed a 4-0 win over Orland on the Huskies' home field.
"It's very bittersweet," said Linch, one of seven seniors. "It's like you're counting down the minutes, thinking this isn't cool. It's a little emotional."
The victory gave the Sutter girls soccer program its ninth consecutive section title — the most dominant reign of any sport in Northern Section history.
"I just don't want this day to end," Linch said. "You play four years, and even longer with some of these girls, and to think I'm not going to play soccer with them ever again is tough."
The Huskies dominated the Trojans in just about every facet of the game — positioning, footwork, speed, ball movement and time of possession.
Sutter (20-2-1) finished with 19 shots on goal to Orland's three.
But on a day with winds blowing up to 25 mph, the match became one of quick adjustments.
"With the wind to our back, we just wanted to shoot as much as possible early, build a lead and hold it in the second half," said Sutter coach Jeff Stanhope. "With the wind against us, we had to keep the ball down, use shorter passes, and they did a good job of that.
"With the wind the way it was, we wanted to shoot from further out in the first half."
Many of Sutter's strikes were from beyond the box.
Ciarra Beymer sparked the scoring just minutes in after heading in a corner kick that bounced off the cross bar. Like every one of Sutter's first-half corner kicks, the ball didn't need a bend toward the goal — the wind took care of that.
The wind also helped out Alyson Zoellin's floating shot from the sideline that took a big bounce over the cluster of players in the box, sailed above the reach of Orland keeper Clarisa Esquivel and into the net to make the score 3-0 midway into the first half.
Zoellin's goal came just two minutes after Madison Levine struck a laser shot from the corner of the box that was misjudged by Esquivel.
Esquivel was on the defense most of the match and finished with 13 saves.
For the first time since preseason, the backline of Sutter was tested facing the wind and some better ball movement by Orland (13-6-1) in the second half.
Andrea Little, Jenna Lewis, Martina Damboriena and Alyssa McCurry were too much for the Trojans, and when Levine was dropped back to adjust to a formation push, the stops and interceptions kept most of the play at midfield.
Kelsey Graham flew down the sidelines a few times on breakaways, but Orland managed to stuff most of the attacks.
Sutter goalkeeper Devan Reische had an easier day, and was forced to lay out for one clean save with just minutes remaining in the match.
When the whistle blew, the girls wearing white and navy met in the middle for one last celebration.
"It's going to be sad to see some of these girls go," said Stanhope.