By Steve Breazeale
The winter sports programs at San Clemente High School have concluded regular season play, and the playoffs are on deck. All six of the Triton winter programs will be headed to the postseason.
For in-game updates, scores, news and more for all of the Triton programs throughout the playoffs, follow us on Twitter @SouthOCsports.
Phillips’ Secret Weapon Key for Triton Soccer Team
During a recent practice, San Clemente girls soccer coach Lauren Leslie had her team play a game called the “Crossbar Challenge.” Each player lined up 10 yards out from the goal and was tasked with trying to kick a ball into the top crossbar. If a player made contact, they got to move back another 10 yards. Whoever went the farthest won the game.
Senior midfielder Victoria Phillips’ specialty is her ability to pinpoint her free kicks, and during the challenge, she didn’t miss.
Phillips clanked home four consecutive shots off the crossbar and ended up a whopping 40 yards from the goal.
Phillips’ ability to turn any spot near the opposing goal into a scoring chance has been evident this season, and she has quickly become one of the Tritons’ secret weapons. She has scored all four of her goals this season off direct free-kicks, and three of those goals came in decisive league games.
After their first rotation through South Coast League play the Tritons’ record stood at 2-2, and they were in the hunt for a playoff spot. Over the final four games, San Clemente went 2-1-1 and defeated a talented Tesoro team 3-0 in the final game of the regular season on Feb. 8 to clinch second place and a playoff berth.
The Tritons (9-8-4, 4-3-1 league) will travel to play Esperanza in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1 Championships on Feb. 16.
Phillips’ emergence as a key contributor on this resilient Triton squad almost never happened.
As a junior on the varsity team in 2015, Phillips did not get much playing time. She was playing club soccer as well, but was discouraged by her teams’ results. The wins, and breaks on the field, just weren’t going her way.
Frustrated with where she was at, she contemplated quitting her senior season.
On the first day of practice, she approached Leslie, a first-year head coach, and decided she needed some time to reevaluate her priorities.
It took her a month, but Phillips eventually decided to rejoin the team with a fresh mindset. She was not going to dwell on the end result anymore. Instead, she wanted to focus on having fun while playing with her best friends.
“Out here we just make a second family and I realized I was missing that part of me,” Phillips said. “I was just in the wrong mindset. I wasn’t having fun because I wasn’t allowing myself to realize I’m playing the sport I love.”
The month she took off was the longest Phillips had ever been away from the game. While she kept in shape during the time off, she had to learn to adjust to the flow of in-game competition.
She eventually earned the starting center midfielder spot and has remained a fixture in the lineup.
“Ever since she came back she’s been a leader. She came back in 100 percent,” Leslie said. “Without her we wouldn’t be in second place.”
As the season progressed, an opportunity popped up that Phillips was not expecting.
Ian Woodhead, the head soccer coach at Santiago Canyon College, came calling, asking if Phillips was interested in playing for his well-known community college program. After a trip to visit the campus in Orange, Phillips decided she wanted to continue playing at the collegiate level and will attend Santiago Canyon College next fall.
The road through the CIF-SS Division 1 soccer playoffs is always tough, and Phillips and the Tritons are now intensely focused on what is in front of them, and that is an Esperanza (17-3-1, 5-1) team that finished first in the Crestview League and has lost only three matches all year.
Girls Water Polo Falls to San Marcos in First Round
The San Clemente girls water polo team headed into the CIF-SS Division 1 Championships with plenty of momentum after going undefeated in South Coast League play, but were brought down by San Marcos in the first round on Feb. 15.
San Marcos defeated the Tritons 14-6.
The Tritons were appearing in the Division 1 Championships after excelling at the Division 2 level the past several seasons.
Girls Hoops Survives Wild Playoff Scenario
The San Clemente girls basketball team found itself in a confusing postseason scenario after going 4-4 in South Coast League competition. The Tritons played well in the tough league, but ended up in a three-way tie for second along with El Toro and Tesoro.
San Clemente (14-12, 4-4) won a coin flip tiebreaker and was awarded second place and a playoff berth. San Clemente was awarded a first-round bye in the CIF-SS Division 3AA Championships and will play Trabuco Hills (17-8, 8-0) in the second round on Feb. 18.
Boys Soccer Travels to Sunny Hills
After placing third in the South Coast League, the San Clemente boys soccer team will travel to play Sunny Hills in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs on Feb. 17.
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