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Huskies roar in 2nd half, headed back to section title game
Check out a collection of Chris Kaufman's shots from the Sutter-Corning soccer match by clicking here.
Sitting in the grass just outside the goalie box, with the sky clear and the Buttes providing that postcard-worthy backdrop, the Sutter High girls soccer team felt an unprecedented sting.
For once, the Huskies were losing.
"We're stabbing at the ball ... not playing smart ... everybody needs to calm down ... arguing, arguing, arguing is all you're doing," were some of the highlights of Sutter coach Jeff Stanhope's audible halftime speech. "If you don't win the (dang) ball, we're not going to win the game."
Message received. The scare of the season became a speed bump as the No. 2 Huskies routed No. 3 Corning 5-1 Tuesday in the semifinals of the Northern Section Division I playoffs.
"We're going to the 'ship, baby," yelled Huskies striker Erika Linch, whose four goals were the highlight of Sutter's second-half revival to expected levels of dominance.
Simply put, the Huskies don't lose in the Northern Section. Online records at MaxPreps go back to 2004-2005, and their slate's clean dating back to when these seniors were tweens. Corning 1, Sutter 0 is a result unfathomable to a program that advertises its six consecutive titles on T-shirts. They hadn't allowed a goal in 11 games.
This wasn't lost on the Corning sideline postgame. The word "history" was being thrown around to describe their 7th-minute score. While there were a few tears, many laughed and moved on, content with knowing they had held a lead.
"We're the only team to score on them," coach Gavino Munoz said, "if that's not history in itself."
For a school that measures success in banners and patch-covered letterman jackets, that "at least we hung tight" philosophy doesn't compute. Knowing they had plenty of chances to lead in the first half only made it worse for the Huskies.
Linch missed a penalty kick and Sutter fans were furious when one of her headers wasn't ruled the equalizing goal. When discussing the play, which ricocheted off the post, Stanhope used the phrase "taken away."
"I was shocked about how we came out playing," said Stanhope. "It was a little surprising to make that speech at half."
He wasn't the only one doling out pep talks, either. Goalie Sam Foster saw Linch, a sophomore, was still letting her missed penalty kick mess with her head. Her advice was to become the Corning keepers "best friend," as in "keep coming back" toward her.
They became rather well acquainted as Linch scored her first goal in the 12th minute of the second half. She added three more in the final five minutes, upping her average to 2.16 goals per game.
"That missed PK, I couldn't stop thinking about that," Linch said. "It gets a major weight off your chest."
Katie Olsen, the team's quietest player, made her teammates scream after knocking in a corner kick from Jenna Lewis in the 45th minute. Lewis finished with two assists and Lindsey Moore added another assist for Sutter, which will play either West Valley or Oroville in the championship on Saturday.
If it's the top-seeded Eagles, then Sutter will be on the road. That's also unprecedented territory for the Huskies, but one they're rather confident they can handle.
"We're going to work out best and hopefully we pull it through," Linch said.