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Fresno edges Vaqueros 2-1 in CCCAA State final

Alexa Benitez battles Fresno's Taylor Alkire for the ball during the CCCAA State final in Sacramento. (Photo by David Sanborn)
Alexa Benitez battles Fresno's Taylor Alkire for the ball during the CCCAA State final in Sacramento. (Photo by David Sanborn)

Fresno City College spoiled SBCC's bid for a CCCAA Women's Soccer State title on Sunday, taking a 2-0 second-half lead and then hanging on for a 2-1 win at American River College in Sacramento.

The Rams (25-0-2) completed an undefeated campaign and handed the Vaqueros (21-1-1) their first loss of the year. It was the second State title of the day for the Rams. The Fresno men's soccer team blanked Taft 2-0 on Sunday morning to earn its first men's State crown.

Fresno goalie Briana Castaneda was the tournament MVP. Lourdes Gilbert was pulled down in the box in the 41st minute but Castaneda stopped a penalty kick by Chloe Montano.

"Chloe had made every PK this year (7 straight) and we had all the momentum at that point," said 13th-year head coach John Sisterson. "The referee stopped her just as she was starting to take the PK and she had to start again. That can be very nerve-wracking."

Sophia Zertuche scored the game's first goal in the 58th minute. Anissa Wilson delivered a cross from the right side and Zertuche headed it into an open net. The Rams boosted the lead to 2-0 when Taylor Alkire hit the net in the 78th minute.

The Vaqueros cut it to 2-1 in the 83rd minute on a breakaway by Riley Moore. She blasted a shot from 17 yards over the keeper and into the upper left corner.

Santa Barbara had a golden opportunity to tie it in the 90th minute on a corner kick. There was a scramble in front of the net and Matilda Cassel Ledin got off a shot but it was blocked by Castaneda.

Both teams entered the game with undefeated records. Fresno was ranked No. 1 in the nation and the Vaqueros were No. 2. The teams had allowed a mere 10 goals combined, including just four by the Vaqueros.

The Vaqueros had allowed just one goal in the last 14 games prior to Sunday's final.

SBCC goalie Holly Telliard made three saves, including a leaping stop of a shot by Raina Wristen in the 12th minute.

"I'm so proud of the girls," said Sisterson. "This will be a year I'll never forget. We set so many records and won so many games with a 21-game win streak. Plus, we only conceded four goals the entire season (before Sunday's game).

"This was a great, great team and a real classy group of athletes."

SBCC has finished first, second and third in the State this year in three fall sports. The Vaqueros won their first women's water polo state title two weeks ago, took second in women's soccer and third in women's golf.