KINGSBURG - For the third-straight season, the Kingsburg girls soccer team celebrated winning a Section championship on its home field.
Behind two second half goals from Marissa Montelongo, the Kingsburg Vikings defeated the Exeter Monarchs 2-1 in the Central Section Division IV championship game on Feb. 22.
It’s also the program’s third-straight Division IV title where the girls were the top seed in the bracket.
“Honestly, this one feels like the best one,” Montelongo said. “This one we were coming in with a younger team, a newer team. None of us played together, but everything finally came together within the first couple of weeks of the season. Then we just improved every time and we never stopped working.”
After winning a Section title the past two years, Kingsburg head coach Scott Hodges said this third championship was one that he “wanted really bad.”
“I think I heard someone say ‘The first one is the best,’ but to be honest they’re all fantastic,” Hodges said. “It’s a great feeling and I’m just really proud of the girls.”
Senior defender Peyton Woods, who was part the past two title teams, said the third championship was the toughest one to earn.
“This one was probably one of our tougher ones and we stayed strong the whole time,” Woods said.
Junior midfielder Denise Elias, who was part of last year’s championship team, said this win was all about preparation.
“We showed up, did the work at practice,” Elias said. “We kept battling.”
Both teams held each other scoreless in the first half before Montelongo put Kingsburg on the scoreboard in the 47th minute.
Montelongo dribbled past multiple defenders including Monarchs’ goalkeeper Arleny Garcia for a shot toward the left side of the net.
In the 54th minute, Montelongo seized another opportunity to score. The junior scored on a penalty kick, which was a shot down the middle.
“We knew that we needed to stay calm,” Montelongo said the Vikings scoreless first half. “Play our game, not change anything and eventually we kept pushing and finally we got one in.”
Later, Exeter cut Kingsburg’s lead to one goal on a shot that went over the head of Vikings’ goalkeeper Brianna Vela. Lexe Cortez scored the Monarchs goal in the 66th minute.
“We were saying it’s 0-0 still throughout the whole game,” Denise Elias said. “We needed to keep battling, keep battling, keep battling because we’re a team that keeps going hard the whole time.”
Heading into the championship match, the Vikings were expecting a tough and physical game from Exeter after both teams met twice during the Central Sequoia League schedule. Kingsburg won both meetings against the Monarchs, the first one being a 1-0 victory, and the second was a 2-1 win.
“It was a great battle,” Hodges said about the title game. “Exeter has a fantastic team, we played them three times this year, every game was a one goal differential. They just battled really hard, they’re a well coach team.”
“I’m just so proud of our girls. They just kept showing up and doing the work and preparing. They just stayed laser focus the whole time and I’m just really proud of them.”
Two days after the Valley championship victory, Kingsburg was awarded the No. 4 seed in the CIF Northern Regional Division IV playoffs. The Vikings hosted No. 5 Miramonte-Orinda in the first round on Tuesday (after press time).
A win would’ve advance Kingsburg to face top-seeded Liberty Ranch-Galt on Thursday.
It’s the third-straight year that the Vikings will play in the regional state playoffs. For the past two years, Kingsburg participated in the Southern Regional playoffs and were eliminated from the first round in back-to-back seasons. Both games ended in Kingsburg losing a penalty kick shootout.
Last year, the Vikings lost at home to Westminster High in a 5-3 penalty shootout after a 1-1 tie at the end of overtime. It was the first time Kingsburg hosted a state playoff game in program history.