Aptos High lost to Sacred Heart Prep in the CCS D-II quarterfinals on Feb. 19. (file photo)

ATHERTON—When a high school soccer team scores the go-ahead goal in the 70th minute, it usually goes on to win. Sometimes, it will end in a tie and rarely does it ever end in defeat. But the latter situation is exactly what unfolded for the No. 5 seed Aptos High girls as they lost 3-2 to Sacred Heart Prep in a Central Coast Section Division II playoff quarterfinal on Feb. 19. 

“This is my first year coaching this team and it’s been an amazing season,” Aptos coach Gina Castaneda said. “I couldn’t have asked anything more from these young women.”

Castaneda was as shocked as anyone with the swift turn of events, which saw the Mariners score in the 70th minute to take a 2-1 lead only to see the host and No. 4 seed Gators (12-6-3) respond with tallies in the 72rd and 76th minute to complete an incredible comeback. 

“I don’t know, I’m thinking we have 10 minutes left and all we have to do is get that ball on our side of the field and keep possession,” Castaneda said. “And we made some mistakes that resulted in goals.”

Things were looking good for the Mariners after Malia Kessler was taken down inside the 18-yard box in the seventh minute. Jazmine Castaneda converted the penalty kick for a 1-0 Aptos lead. The score stayed that way until Sacred Heart Prep got the equalizer in the 45th minute. 

In the opening minute of the second half, Castaneda’s header went wide right by a couple of feet, a microcosm of the Mariners’ day as they had several quality shots that barely missed the mark. 

“We outshot them by 50 percent; we just couldn’t find the back of the net enough,” Gina Castaneda said.

Possession-wise, the teams were evenly matched as they took turns dictating play. Aptos (17-3-1) relied more on rapid-fire passes while SHP counter attacked nicely and utilized a lot of long balls to put pressure on the Aptos side. 

The Mariners certainly looked as if they were headed for victory after sophomore Ella Shoemaker scored in the 70th minute. Nellie Rubio sent a beautiful ball from the left flank to a hard-charging Shoemaker on the right seam for a highlight-reel goal. Shoemaker actually had to retrieve one of her shoes after the play was over after it came off during a collision with a SHP player. 

Gina Castaneda said Shoemaker and freshman Anahi Macias did a nice job of filling in for two starters who were out due to injury. 

“They did an amazing job,” Gina said. “We had a total of four players out with injuries and one had surgery (Friday). Having two starters out was pretty drastic for us. We were hurting from having those players out, but Anahi and Ella did an amazing job.”

Castaneda also commended the play of outside fullbacks Julianne Houser and Elizabeth Randolph, defenders Rowan Boyer and Sofia Rosa, forwards Gwen Chapman and Malia Kessler, along with stalwarts Jasmine Castaneda and Rubio. 

Jazmine was her usual active self and consistently drew two defenders wherever she was, but she still managed to unleash several shots, some of which were close to going in. More than the wins and losses, Gina Castaneda said she’ll remember this season for the relationships that were built, many of which are set to last long into the future. 

“I hope the players understand and value that they’re more than just amazing athletes,” Gina said. “I’ve watched them come to this program and become family. That’s what I’ll take away from this season, being able to mentor them to be amazing women and future leaders.”

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