Tom Kiss’ video highlights and interviews of Claremont’s 2-0 win
By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
MISSION VIEJO — Defense wins championships, but it sure helps to have great goalkeeping too.
Claremont High School central defenders Ariana Holmes and Taylor Fortson are imposing figures and a big reason the Wolfpack entered Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3 girls soccer title game against defending champion Bishop Amat without allowing a goal in the playoffs.
But who knows how the Wolfpack’s fortunes turn out without the incredible effort from goalkeeper Amanda Garvin.
Garvin helped the Wolfpack secure their seventh consecutive shutout by blanking the hottest scoring team in the playoffs with three head-shaking saves in the first half and Claremont took advantage of its scoring opportunities to secure its first girls soccer title since 1999 with a 2-0 victory over Bishop Amat at Mission Viejo High School.
Claremont, ranked third in the country by Maxpreps, improved to 27-1-4 while Bishop Amat dropped to 22-5-4. Both teams will be in the state playoffs, which begin on Tuesday.
Until then, Claremont’s going to enjoy its first section title in 13 years. (To continue click thread)
“Amanda was brilliant today,” Claremont coach Tim Tracey said. “I thought at the beginning they had a couple opportunities they should have put away. They had us on our heels a couple times, but Amanda did a fantastic job.”
Amat nearly scored in the first 15 seconds with April Juarez, who entered the game with 25 goals and 25 assists, taking the kickoff and sending a pass down the sideline for Joni Gener, who cut toward the goal and sent a shot off the crossbar.
Juarez turned and fired from the right side in the 12th minute, but Garvin saved a sure goal with a finger-tip save off the crossbar.
Then came Claremont’s big moment.
Fortson, bigger and more physical than anyone in the box, finished a corner kick with a snapping header that gave Claremont a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute.
“Every time we’ve gotten a goal in the first 15 or 20 minutes we’ve won the game,” Fortson said. “I saw it coming and I knew I had to get it. I was waiting for that goal all season.”
Amat, which had come back to win after trailing in every round in the playoffs, had its opportunities to equalize and take the lead, but Garvin wouldn’t allow it.
“She made three great saves that even if we get one the game changes,” Bishop Amat coach Ruben Gonzalez said. “We gave up a goal on a corner kick which we’ve been practicing and preaching. That’s how they (Claremont) score, on set pieces. We were unfortunate to give up that goal.”
On an 20-yard free kick straightaway in the 38th minute, Juarez curled a shot over the wall toward the left corner, but was turned away by a diving save from Garvin.
In the dying moments of the first half, Natalie Rivas beat her defender along the right side and sent a pass in front to a wide open Juarez 10-yards in the front of the goal, but Juarez’s shot was poked away by Garvin, who continued after the ball and reached out to secure it as Jamie Peters came racing in to knock it in. But the referee ruled Garvin had enough control of the ball to whistle it dead, negating the goal.
“Amanda did an amazing job, we almost got scored on twice,” Fortson said. “She really held it together for us. We made some dumb mistakes on defense. We left a couple girls open we shouldn’t of, but she came through for us.”
It only took Claremont four minutes to double its lead in the second half on a great finish from Merin Arft. Rebekah Evans found Arft and delivered a pass that Arft finished in the left corner for a 2-0 lead in the 44th minute.
At that point, Claremont took control and defended well, showing why it only has allowed 13 goals all year. Amat hit the crossbar again in the 78th minute, but was otherwise shut down the final 40 minutes.
For Gonzalez, it simply came down to Claremont taking advantage of its opportunities better than they did.
“You hit the nail on the head,” Gonzalez said. “We had opportunities and we didn’t put them away. Nine out of ten times April puts those balls away and we’re up 2-0, but you have to give their team and goalkeeper credit, they came up big. And when they had chances, they took care of them, that’s how it goes in this game.”