Clovis High junior Lora Esquivel (9) battles Clarissa Medina of St. Michael’s for control of the ball near the sidelines during the first half of Saturday’s finals in the Clovis Invitational soccer tournament. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
It’s been a while since the Clovis High girls have won the championship in the season-opening Clovis Invitational.
Santa Fe St. Michael’s made sure a title for the Lady Wildcats would have to wait at least another year. The Lady Horsemen pounded Clovis 9-0 at Yucca Soccer Complex, winning the tournament for the fourth year in a row.
St. Mike’s coach Ed Velie said his team picked up its play in the finals after not playing as well during pool play.
“We just starting scoring on our opportunities today,” said Velie, who said he’s been bringing teams to the tourney for nine years and remembered the Lady Cats winning the title the first time he was here. “I feel that Clovis is a better team than they showed today. They earned their way into the finals.”
The Lady Cats (1-1-1) held their own for most of the first half. Forward Michelle Bustamonte, an eighth-grader, gave the Class 3A Lady Horsemen the lead midway through the first half when she chipped the ball in past charging goalkeeper Britni Jimenez.
“The first goal really hurt because it was a lack of communication,” Clovis coach Shane Leatherwood said. “We’ve really got to work on communication.
“A lot of (the problem was) we didn’t clear the ball. We left it in play for them, and they were just better than us.”
It took the Lady Horsemen until the final three minutes of the half to break through again, but once they did, the floodgates opened.
Junior midfielder Clarissa Medina may have laid the coup de grace on Clovis when she lofted a penalty kick from about 30 yards just over the outstretched hands of Jimenez. Senior Lauren Murray added another goal with just over a minute left in the first half, and St. Mike’s never looked back.
“I don’t think we ran out of gas this game,” Leatherwood said. “I think we just got emotionally drained.”
Medina and junior forward Jordan Miller each had a pair of goals for St. Mike’s (3-0), while sophomore midfielder Jennifer Najjar accounted for a goal and three assists in the second half.
Velie, who has led St. Mike’s to the Class 3A state finals four times since 2000 (including a title in 2001), said the Lady Horsemen made adjustments trying to contain Clovis junior Jordan Garrett.
In fact, they contained everybody as the Lady Cats never mounted a serious threat on the St. Mike’s goal.
“We actually got everything going out to midfield in this game,” Velie said. “Garrett is a known player (in the state), and we wanted to keep her bottled up.”
Leatherwood was disappointed in how things went, but glad to be in the finals.
“I wanted this opportunity,” Leatherwood said. “It’s a good test for us.”