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Tigers seek first SJS girls soccer crown

By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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It isn’t necessarily the matchup anyone expected when the Sac-Joaquin Section girls soccer playoffs began, but Saturday’s section final gives long-time Roseville coach Pablo Gutierrez another shot at a Division II championship. If the Tigers can solve Oak Ridge at 2 p.m. inside Folsom High’s Prairie City Stadium, they will claim the first-ever section title for the girls soccer program at the school. With two narrow postseason wins, this visit to the ultimate game did not come easily. Roseville came out flat and tentative as its semifinal game against Rocklin started Wednesday night, and the Thunder came out with an intense energy. Almost before the paying customers could find their seats at Prairie City Stadium, Rocklin had claimed a 1-0 lead, but after an initial bump in the road, the Tigers found their game and used two first-half goals to take the game 2-1 and earn a spot in the title game. “The first 10 minutes were not what I was expecting,” said Roseville coach Pablo Gutierrez. “It seems like we have that tendency to let the opponent start strong. This team seems to have a strong character. They slowly pick up and have always been able to finish up strong.” Once Roseville got its game legs going, it got a boost of energy from a familiar source. In the 14th minute, senior forward Megan Looper turned on a Rocklin defender and used her speed to create just enough space to send a shot on goal from just outside the 18-yard line. Goalkeeper Melanie Bertrand managed to get a hand on the shot, but she was unable to turn it aside as it dropped into the goal for the equalizer. Five minutes after Roseville’s initial tally, midfielder Adrianne Bates delivered one of her potent free kicks to provide the winning margin. The sophomore took the shot after a foul gave her a look from 20 yards out, straight on the goal. A low laser to the right side of the wall rippled the net just inside the post. The Tigers will need a lot of production from Bates and Looper if they want to compete with an extremely fast and talented Trojan squad. “Adrianne Bates had her best game of the year (Wednesday),” Gutierrez said. “She was winning the battle with her opponent up in the air and on the ground. She is a competitor. Oak Ridge took care of Granite Bay in a surprising semifinal result behind the leadership of Rachel Mercik, a dynamic midfielder. The Trojans are quick on the back line where the speed of Sara Harris, Amanda Stickelman, Tori Chambliss and Alex Ghilarducci is key, a characteristic that may hamper Roseville’s hopes. Elli Tremblay and Kelsey Decarlo anchored a solid Roseville defense that got help from a number of places. Amanda Ellsworth, often a threat in the midfield and as a forward, has found a new home as a defender, and the Roseville back line is better for her presence there. The sophomore is a physical player who strengthens the Tigers’ ability to stop runs to the outside. “Amanda Ellsworth has made our defense stronger,” Gutierrez said. “She knows the game and is willing to give up the forward position to help our defense.” Senior Shea Peters, a critical piece of the Roseville defensive group, is expected to be back at full strength today after leaving Wednesday night’s contest with an ankle injury. Roseville (14-4-4) and Oak Ridge (12-2-3) both finished second in their respective leagues, but both now have a shot at the most important first place finish of all. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Folsom.