KINGSBURG — A year after having her junior season ended due to an ACL injury, Caitlyn Vela scored one perhaps the biggest goal of her senior season for the Kingsburg High School Vikings girls soccer team. With the No. 1 seed Vikings and No. 7 seed Templeton High Eagles heading into overtime of their Division III Central Section Championship game, Vela took a pass from teammate Shelby Reed and scored to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead in overtime.
The late goal secured the second straight Division III Championship for Kingsburg (16-4-1) and their fifth straight Central Section Championship overall. They won three straight Division IV Championships from 2017-2019.
“It felt amazing to score but I couldn’t have done it without my team. We are always going hard in practice and really helped this year to get me back to normal after being out for a year on an acl injury,” Vela said. “Our team performed very well staying composed enough to take advantage of the opportunity we got to score.”
Scott Hodges, Kingsburg High head coach, had high praise for his team after a year like no other due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Templeton is an excellent team. It was a great matchup between the two teams. We scored in the first overtime with Shelby Reed making an assist to Caitlyn Vela. Shortly before we scored our goal Brianna Vela made an excellent stop in goal,” Hodges said. “I could not be prouder of our student-athletes resiliency this season. They have remained focused on and off the field,” Hodges said. I am so blessed to have an opportunity to coach these girls. We work hard to take one game at a time, and we have been very blessed to have earned our fifth Section Championship in a row.”
For several of the seniors on the team, it was a fourth championship to go along with four Central Sequoia League title where they accumulated a record of 45-0.
One of the players who will leave Kingsburg with four titles is Khloe Hodges, who admittedly didn’t think a season was going to take place when school started with students attending through zoom.
“I honestly can say I didn’t think our season was going to happen when we started school on zoom. I was trying to keep a positive attitude towards this year as there can be so many blessings that we don’t see through these hard times. Our school has worked so hard to try to make every event possible for us and I am super grateful for everything they have done,” Khloe Hodges said. “I am so thankful we had the opportunity to play and win a Valley Championship as so many other sports didn’t even have the opportunity to do so. To be able to show all the hard work we have put in day after day when we didn’t know we would be able to have games is such a blessing.”
Khloe is the daughter of head coach Scott Hodges. He agrees with his daughters sentiments.
“The beginning of the school year was difficult with the delay of all of the sports seasons. We are all very thankful that we were able to compete this season,” Hodges said. “The performance this season was a team effort that demanded the best from all 24 of our players. I am so proud of each one of them.”
Another senior who was happy to get the victory was Taryn Irigoyen, who said that she was just thrilled to get in the filed this season.
“Winning this year was so special. We didn’t even know if we were going to have a season at all, so to win valley was the best feeling,” Irigoyen said. “The thought of that really made us just not take the game for granted. You never know when the last time you step on the field will be. Also, the majority of our team is playing two sports at once right now so it was just amazing our bodies have even made it this far.”
Irigoyen, who is also playing softball for the Vikings, credits the bond that tem has for their success.
“Our program is so much more than just the game. The positive culture our coaches created is unmatched by anything else,” Irigoyen said. “Also, we all truly enjoy each other’s presence and play for each other!”
The Vikings received the No. 7 seed in Division III in the Southern California Regional playoffs and traveled to No. 2 seed Hanford High School on Wednesday, June 1. No score was available at press time. Hanford High (17-1-1) won the Division II Central Section Championship defeating Sanger High 3-2 in overtime.
For Vela, who will be graduating on June 1, it was a blessing to even be back on the field with her teammates and play soccer during her senior year.
“Winning the championship this year was a big relief after the year we went through. Most of us at one point or another had to take two weeks off because of quarantine so to just push past the times we couldn’t see each other watching film, and passing patterns, winning made everything worth it,” Vela said. “Something that is so special is the way we play for each other and really care for each other. We spend all summer together before season even begins. We play for each other and care about the relationships we have with each other. We don’t just see each other as another girl on the team, we see each other as a sister and a lifelong friend.”
Khloe agrees with Caitlyn, that those memories on and off the field and the bond created between the team is what she will take away from the experience she has had on the soccer team at Kingsburg High School.
“Something that is so different about our soccer program is the love we have for one another. We genuinely love soccer and love each other like sisters. We play hard for each other to show how much we love one another. We have such tight bonds year after year and my dad (Scott) makes that a priority over everything. We spend each day at practice, team dinners, and film just enjoying each other’s company and laughing with one another,” Khloe said. “I’ve been so grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity to win four Valley Championships and I’ll never forget each one. It is so rewarding to see the hard work my teammates put in day after day and see the results in the games we play. Winning 4 Valley Championships have been so fun, but honestly, I will never forget the memories I’ve had with each one of my teammates and that will be the biggest thing I will take from being in this program.”