One step from the promised land. That’s where the Carlsbad girls soccer team stands after overcoming the weather and an early setback to storm past West Hills, 4-1, in Wednesday night’s CIF Open Division semi-final on their home field. The victory vaults the second-seeded Lancers (21-4-1) into Friday night’s championship match-up with top-seed Academy of Our Lady of Peace (19-3-2) at Mission Bay High School. Kick-off is slated for 5 p.m.
Not surprisingly, the sublime Lexi Wright was at the center of things for Carlsbad. The swift sophomore, who’s added a bit of physicality and aggressiveness to her game this year, scored three goals, upping her school single season record total to 37. Second-year Head Coach Dean Balent had plenty of superlatives for Wright but was pleased with the performance of his entire team.
“We wanted to use our speed and even with the wet conditions we were able to get the ball out in front so we could run onto it,” said Balent. “We didn’t want them to be able to sit back and make this a defensive battle. We wanted to dictate tempo and I think we did that pretty well—it worked out perfectly.
“Lexi is just a phenomenal player and when you have somebody like that, in no time at all she can change the game around. She just takes over and makes it look so effortless—I really don’t know how to describe her.”
West Hills put Wright and the Lancers to the test less than two minutes into Wednesday’s action when senior Taylor Gomez scored on the rebound of her own penalty kick. The home team proved up to the task as Wright scored two goals in the next 18 minutes to put Carlsbad back in command.
Junior midfielder Marisa Bubnis converted a penalty kick in the fifth minute of the second half to provide a cushion and Wright closed out the scoring with under two minutes to go.
Balent says his team is right on schedule. “I’m really excited for the girls, they set goals at the start of the season and now we’ve reached the third goal,” he said. “We won the Avocado West League for the second year in a row, got our first playoff win and have reached the championship game.
“Now we have to go back to work Friday.”
Balent likes the pairing with Our Lady of Peace, a team the Lancers split two games with in December. “We’ve played OLP twice so we’re not going in blind,” he said. “They’re a good team but we’ll be prepared and make adjustments as the game goes along.”
Junior Taylor Wells, Wright’s running mate at the top of the Lancer attack and a standout in her own right, was glad to get past West Hills and is looking forward. “I was a little worried at first,” said Wells. “The first goal can set the tone for a game so I was glad we came back right away.
“All of us are definitely excited to be going to the championship game and we’ll be ready to play. We were super-bummed when we lost in the first round last season (on PKs to eventual runner-up Steele Canyon) and have worked really hard this year to make sure we don’t get in a situation like that again.
“We lost to OLP the last time we played but we didn’t have our entire roster and I feel we’re capable of winning Friday if we play hard and play our game.” She’s not even concerned about the weather.
“The last three games we’ve played in the rain—I guess it’s kind of good luck for us.”