By John Phillip Wyllie
Hilltop High School junior, Giselle Ibanez, struggled to describe her feelings after scoring last week what was the most important goal of her soccer career. Ibanez’s goal, scored about a minute before halftime in the Lancer’s January 14 1-0 victory over Bonita Vista High had enormous implications. Since 1982, Hilltop and every other school in the Metro Conference had been trying to defeat the Lady Barons, but for a national record 298 consecutive league games, no team was able to do it. Ibanez and her Lancer teammates came into this game determined and confident that they could at last turn the tables on the perennial league champs.
Seeing the Baron goalie about four yards off of her line, Ibanez took a well-placed pass from defender, Erin Molina about 25 yards from the Baron goal. She quickly turned and chipped the ball over the goalie and into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.
“With everyone yelling, it was just a great moment for me,” Ibanez said. With the second half still to play however, the game was far from over. It was time for the Lancer defense, unscored upon in the previous 8 and a half matches, to rise to the occasion.
“Sweeper, Jillian Romero and stopper Allison White were awesome in the middle,” said Hilltop’s second year coach, Gerry Forand. “They kept the middle clean and everyone out of there.” They also managed to continually frustrate the Baron attack. While Bonita directed 11 shots on goal, none posed much of a problem for goalkeeper Nereida Aguiar. Captain Vivianna Zuniga and Alaide Cordon, both seniors, were also singled out by Forand for their stellar play. Forand called his pairing of Cordon and Ibanez in the midfield one of the keys to the victory.
“We were on a natural high after beating them,” Zuniga said. “We worked really hard (the previous week) in practice and we were well prepared. It was sheer confidence. I knew right away (at the beginning of the year) that this season would be different. Now we just have to avoid being overconfident.
“This was my last chance (as a senior) and we did it, so it was pretty exciting,” Romero added. “We wanted it more and they were playing with a lot more pressure since they had never lost to us. We had nothing to lose. I think we have a good chance now of going all the way.”
Bonita’s stellar midfielder, Jessica Muñoz, an All-CIF selection as a sophomore a year ago, was gracious in defeat and put the game in perspective.
“Hilltop came out ready to play and they showed a lot of heart. Every good team loses once in a while. This was just one game. We a still a very talented team and we could win a CIF championship. There is no doubt about it.”