SANTA CLARITA -- When star forward Evelyn Calderon went down with a knee injury just nine games into the season, San Bernardino Valley's women's soccer team could have given up.
Calderon's 25 goals had fueled the Wolverines' unprecedented run to a regional final last year, and as they set their sights on something more, she was expected to be the hero.
So SBVC's triumph in Sunday's state junior college title game -- a 1-0 decision over Santa Rosa at College of the Canyons -- had to feel awful special, right?
“Right now, this feels great,” Wolverines coach Kristin Hauge said. “Tomorrow, I start recruiting. Well, as soon as I get off the field, I'll start texting.”
Title-game MVP Crystal Sanchez (Bloomington/Bloomington HS) converted a 72nd-minute penalty kick to provide the difference in a defensive standoff that saw just one shot -- Sanchez's PK -- placed on target. Mariela Ortega (Desert Hot Springs/Desert Hot Springs HS) earned the spot kick, bumped down from behind by Santa Rosa's Lauren Romano after running onto a space-finding pass by Angela Young (San Bernardino/Cajon HS).
“I knew we were good defensively, but I knew they're very good defensively,” Hauge said. “We knew that one goal, whoever got it, had a real good chance of winning.”
SBVC (20-1-3), which extended Southern California's title streak in women's soccer to 14 years and gave So Cal its seventh men's/women's sweep in the last eight years, dodged a 1-on-1 opportunity in the fourth minute and was gifted a most questionable offside call that nullified Lauren Curtin's 77th-minute equalizer. It was the first loss for Santa Rosa (18-1-5).
The Wolverines' program's sixth season was a bit like a fairytale, especially after Calderon (Fontana/A.B. Miller) tore an anterior cruciate ligament -- the first of three such injuries -- in late September.
“To lose a player like Evelyn Calderon, who is phenomenal -- I think that was a real big hit for us,” said Hauge, who played club soccer as a teen in Arcadia but was a softball player at Cal Poly Pomona. “We knew [she was done] as soon as it happened. And at that point, [our players] just went, 'OK, we can still do it. Let's do it for her.'
“I think that adversity really helped this team, that they know they can get through anything and they can count on each other, and if they're not doing it, a teammate's going to be there to pick them up.”
SBVC went 15-1-1 after Calderon was hurt, knocking off traditional power Cypress on penalties in a regional semifinal, routing second-seeded Ventura in the regional final -- and in doing so avenging last year's loss at the same stage -- and posting two shutouts in the state final four this weekend.
They couldn't create chances against Santa Rosa, which blanketed forwards Araceli Sanchez (Moreno Valley/Moreno Valley HS) and Ruby Leon (Fontana/Fontana HS), although Angelina King (Redlands/Redlands HS) did her best to open space, repeatedly dribbling through Santa Rosa's midfield and delivering balls that went no further.
It wasn't an exciting match, hardly an attractive one, but it got the job done.
“This is our goal every year,” Hauge said. “We don't just go, 'Win state! Win state! Win state!' We do little things along the way. But our ultimate goal is to play a perfect soccer match and, hopefully, win the ultimate title.
“Today's match wasn't quite perfect, but we took advantage of our opportunity and got that goal, and we'll take it.”