Dons Fall to Old Opponent in CIF Playoffs
Verdugo Hills Dons continued their playoff run on Saturday afternoon playing their quarterfinals match against the Cougars of Kennedy High School in a rematch of their meeting in the LA Valley College tournament. That match ended in favor of Verdugo Hills 1-0, with the score coming from a penalty kick. The Dons were looking to continue to employ their usual game plan of focusing offensively and keeping the ball on the ground.
Saturday afternoon was a big day for Verdugo Hills as they prepared themselves for this rematch. Prior to the match starting, Coach Matt Nicchitta was encouraging the Dons and his most powerful message to motivate the team was “Go out and take it, nobody wants it more”. With the girls of Verdugo Hills motivated and ready to take the pitch the first whistle is blown and the match begins.
Kennedy High School had possession of the initial kickoff of the match. Immediately after, the Dons began pressuring the ball and looked to be coming out of the gates in full force. Shortly after the match began, in the 5th minute, Kennedy was awarded a corner kick. The kick was centered and the Cougars took advantage of their opportunity and put the ball into the back of the net with a header. Being down one goal did not stop the Dons, they still pressured the Cougars and put them on their heels to focus on defense. Both teams continued to press on the gas and fight for their chance to move onto the next round. Verdugo Hills had one strong opportunity to score a goal, with the ball right at the goal line. The Dons were attacking and had possession in close with multiple Dons attempting to kick the ball into the back of the net. Unfortunately for them, the ball was deflected off the goalie, defenders and the post during those attempts. Shortly after, the halftime whistle was blown and the score was 1-0 in favor of Kennedy.
Once halftime was over, Verdugo Hills were looking ready to strike back and even the score. Both teams came back out with full force and were ready to score on either side of the pitch. However, there was a moment of crisis for Verdugo Hills. Goalie Kimberly Olmedo Pena made an amazing sliding save, and a Kennedy attacker continued to make an attempt to score, and unfortunately kicked Pena directly in the head. Play was stopped in order to make sure she received the proper care. She was tended to on the field before being taken from the field into an ambulance via wheelchair. The Dons continued to play in honor of their goalie.
Kady Burke was the extremely courageous one who stepped up to the challenge, and came on as the emergency goalkeeper to finish the game. Though she did make a few saves, Kennedy did manage to score and extend their lead. Shortly after the event with Pena, in the 59th minute, Kennedy scored their second goal of the game, and added another in the 70th minute. This ultimately was the final goal of the match, with the final score being 3-0 in favor of the Cougars.With the victory, Kennedy will be moving onto the semi-finals.
As the final whistle was blown, emotions were in the air for Verdugo Hills. Many of the Dons had tears in their eyes coming off the pitch and on the bench. As it was the seniors’ final match as well, the Dons all hugged and showed their love for each other as they were preparing to leave the field one last time. The Dons had an amazing season and will be back next season looking to take it all.