High school soccer: Buchanan edges Central in D-I girls semifinal (w/video)

The Fresno BeeFebruary 26, 2014 

The Buchanan High program that has owned Central Section girls soccer for just short of a decade did what it does Wednesday at home and owned the first half in a Division I semifinal against Central.

Still, it would take 40 more brilliant minutes to deliver a 1-0 win and another trip to the final.

Two-year reigning D-I champs and winners of seven of the past eight titles, the Bears fired seven legitimate shots on goal in the first half; the Grizzlies had zero.

But the catch: Sherine Collins blasted a shot dead center of the goal and over the head of Central keeper Alyssa Ramos, only to see it strike the crossbar so hard it about chipped the red lettering of "BEAR NATION SOCCER." And then there was Caitlyn Kreutz, so magical afoot and repeatedly beating multiple defenders off the dribble, but an early left-footer was swallowed by Ramos and a late breakaway was denied by the Grizzlies sophomore again.

So, 0-0 at halftime, and what did the dominance matter against a 21-6-1 team that second-seeded Buchanan had swept in the Tri-River Athletic Conference?

Further, No. 3 Central was scary to defend with seniors Kelly Garzon and Mariah Montoya slicing and dicing with quickness and excellent footwork.

"I told the girls be patient, keep doing the things you're doing and you'll be rewarded," Bears coach Orlando Ramirez said. "I said even if we don't get it early, keep knocking and push through for 80 minutes."

It would take 55, actually, as Sassy Weigant controlled a loose ball off Haylee Lopes' corner kick, fed Christina Monreal, and the sophomore left-footed a go-ahead bullet into the upper-right corner with 25 minutes remaining.

"Sassy gave me the ball, I was like, 'Oh my gosh,' and I volleyed it in," said Monreal, a defender brought up to attack on corner kicks.

Kreutz, at 5 feet, 4 inches and in a crowd in front of the goal, applauded her teammates: "Christina just has the knack when she sees the ball. She just slid it in with a nice little touch over everyone, a great hit. All around, what a spectacular group of girls. I'm so happy for this team."

Again.

The 18-4-2 Bears will return home to play fifth-seeded Bullard at 11 a.m. Saturday -- after beating Stockdale for the gold the past two seasons with teams also counting Kreutz, who committed to Cal Poly as a sophomore: "It's just luck of the draw being born and bred into such a good program like this at Buchanan."

Buchanan twice beat the Knights with 2-1 nonleague decisions in December and face the difficult odds of beating a good team three times. And it was Bullard that briefly interrupted the dynasty with a 3-0 conquest in the 2011 final.

"No secrets, no strategies, no game plans," Ramirez said. "It becomes about the ball and who makes the best choices and decisions."

The reporter can be reached at aboogaard@fresnobee.com or @beepreps on Twitter.

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