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Shifting gears

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With the regular season behind them and postseason brackets set, the two local soccer participants are spending the week readying themselves for knockout-style competition.

The No. 4 Oxnard College men's soccer team (14-2-4) is expecting an athletic, physical and organized opponent when it hosts No. 13 Orange Coast (11-5-4) in Saturday's regional quarterfinals at 2 p.m.

"They won't be easy to break down," Oxnard coach Ross Greaney said. "We'll have to be patient. We have to just manage the game well."

Until No. 10 Citrus (15-2-3) arrives at the VC Sportsplex on Saturday at 1 p.m., the No. 7 Ventura College women's soccer team (14-5-1) will bracing itself for striker Jasmine Williams, who has a school-record 17 goals and 10 assists for the Owls this fall.

"The playoffs is all about that one game," Ventura coach Steve Hoffman said. "Can we shut down their one star?"

When the fields were announced Tuesday, Oxnard avoided three-time defending state champion Mount San Antonio, who eliminated the Condors the last two seasons. Ventura's path to the Final Four, most likely, could include rematches with No. 2 Canyons, No. 3 Cerritos or No. 6 Cypress, three of the teams to beat the Pirates this season.

Beach Bowl ticket details

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Anticipating a sold out Sportsplex Saturday night, Ventura College and Bakersfield presold upwards of 1,000 tickets this week for the SCFA Beach Bowl sponsored by Joe Kapp Real Estate.

The two schools finished 1-2 in home attendance last year. Bakersfield will be bringing a rooter bus and its band. Taking that into account, Ventura is encouraging fans to arrive early. It will open the gates at 4 p.m., an hour earlier than usual and about an hour after the expected end of the women's soccer playoff game against Citrus.

"Super Saturday," Ventura women's soccer coach Steve Hoffman said. "Football in the afternoon. Football in the evening, What more do you want?"

Oxnard men, Ventura women dominate WSC soccer

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Ventura County has dominated Western State Conference soccer this fall.

A combined 19-0-5 in conference play, the Oxnard College men and Ventura College women both clinched WSC titles in the past six days.

The Oxnard men (13-2-4, 11-0-4), ranked No. 3 in Southern California and No. 7 in the state, clinched a share of its third WSC title in six years with a 4-1 win at Hancock Tuesday night.

One year after an undefeated WSC campaign wasn't enough to edge Santa Barbara City, sophomores like goalkeeper Osvaldo Vallodolid, fullback Estanilo Arevalo and midfield Victor Magana knew that every win was precious this season.

"We have a bunch of sophomores who have learned from painful experiences in previous years," Oxnard coach Ross Greaney said. "Everybody learned from the finish to last year and knew that going undefeated wasn't enough."

"I think enough of our players knew the importance of every point, to make sure it didn't slip through our fingers again."

Put in position by its 4-1 win over Santa Barbara City, the Ventura women (13-5-1, 8-0-1) finished the job Friday with a 5-0 bruising of Cuesta.

After losing five of six matches early against some of the best teams in the nation, including No. 1 Santiago Canyon, No. 3 Canyons and No. 4 Cerritos, the Pirates, ranked No. 9 in Southern California and No. 13 in the state, rebounded with a 12-game unbeaten streak.

"When you play the type of competition we played, it's certainly pretty tough," Ventura coach Steve Hoffman said. "We didn't really hide from anybody and that's why we're playing so well."

Both are ranked No. 15 in the national coaches polls.

Oxnard's free-flowing attack has been led by striker Travis Bowen (14 goals) and attacker Max Madrigal (six goals, 10 assists).

"There is definitely a respect and a respect in the way that teams will play us, putting players behind the ball and defend just for a tie," Greaney said. "It's good preparation for playoffs."

After it wraps the regular season up Friday against visiting Oxnard, Ventura should be a much more dangerous postseason opponent later this month than its seed would hint.

"You get everybody healthy and you can go on a run," Hoffman said. "We're ready to rock and roll. I don't know whether we'll be at home or on the road, but we'll be ready."

Oxnard needs a tie against cross-county rival Moorpark Friday to clinch the title outright.

"The result on Tuesday has definitely taken the pressure off of us, knowing that we've have some reward for the season we've had," Greaney said. "But I don't think anybody wants to share the conference title. We know the job is not totally done."

VC's Cardona commits to Oklahoma

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A big part of the resurgence of the Ventura College women's soccer team has been the goalscoring of striker Daisy Cardona.

The Buena High product committed verbally to the University of Oklahoma Monday

"This kid scores goals," Ventura coach Steve Hoffman said of Cardona. "Goalscorers are born. You can't create them."

An honorable mention All-American as a freshman, Cardona has 18 goals and 15 assists as a sophomore, scoring in all nine WSC games.

"That's incredible," Hoffman said.

VC women power through tough start

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When the California Community College Athletic Association released its initial state and regional women's soccer polls earlier this week, the Ventura College women's soccer team was conspicuous by its absence.

Perhaps at any other moment in its history, Ventura, which has won more than 80 percent of its matches since first kicking a ball in 1996, would belong among the ranked elite.

But, when the poll was released Tuesday, the Pirates were mired in the longest losing streak in school history.

"It's been a reality check," sophomore midfielder Shayna Pettersen said.

Although the four-match losing streak, which ended with a 4-1 win over Santa Monica on Tuesday night, didn't necessarily incite panic.

"We were in every one of those games," coach Steve Hoffman said. "We should have probably got a draw in several of them."

The competition has been of the highest caliber. Four of VC's five losses have come against unbeaten teams ranked in the top 10 of the NSCAA national coaches poll. No. 1 Santiago Canyon, No. 3 Cerritos, No. 8 Cypress and No. 9 Canyons entered the week a combined 20-0-3.

"The kids have got to cut themselves a little bit of slack," Hoffman said. "It's not your normal schedule because of the quality of the teams we've played. It's been a good challenge and the kids have actually done quite well."

Which isn't to say there hasn't been issues. Problems at the back have meant Hoffman has yet to start the same lineup twice. Goalkeeper Katelyn White (Camarillo High) was out with a shoulder injury for most of the streak and the back four has been musical chairs.

Freshman Shayne Wells (Oxnard High) is the only settled member of the defense. Fullback Dakota Thompson (Ventura) is out with a broken hand and, recently, Hoffman has moved freshman forward Taylor C'debaca (Agoura) to fullback and sophomore midfielder Danielle Cook (Ventura) to central defender in an effort to stop the bleeding.

The rest of the team has been steady. The attacking trident of Daisy Cardona (Buena), Breanna Naranjo (Pacifica), and Yasmin Lepez (Pacifica) has combined for 11 goals and six assists. Playmaker Lupita Magana (Santa Paula) already has three goals and four assists and the rest of midfield, wingers Stephanie Hernandez (Ventura) and A.J. Tewes (Buena) and organizer Pettersen (Oxnard), has been solid.

Knowing there is no more room for error, Ventura (4-5) hosts Bakersfield tonight before opening Western State Conference play Sept. 28 against Hancock.

The Pirates have never lost more than six matches in a season.

Hoffman optimistic

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The Ventura College women's soccer team welcomed the No. 2-ranked team in the nation to the VC Sportplex on Wednesday night in style.

Lupita Magana completed a full-field, six-pass move by setting up Yasmin Lepez as the Pirates took the lead against Santiago Canyon in the 26th minute.

"It was an unbelievable goal," Ventura coach Steve Hoffman said. "We shredded them."

Ventura, ranked No. 8 in this week's national coaches poll, still led with 18 minutes to play before a pair of defensive mistakes allowed Santiago Canyon to prevail, 2-1.

Disappointed by the result, Hoffman was left optimistic by his team's play.

"We've really never competed with Santiago Canyon before," said Hoffman, whose team fell 5-0 on the road to the eventual state finalist last season. "Usually, it's one of those games where you say 'They're better than us.' This year, either we're better or we played really well.

"We beat ourselves with two bad mistakes, but when you look at the big picture, this team passes the ball really well. They've been really moving the ball."

Hoffman has been especially impressed by the play of Magana, the freshman from Santa Paula High, who has two goals and two assists in her first four matches.

"She's special," Hoffman said.

VC's Erskine, Cardona named to All-American soccer team

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For the first time in school history, the Ventura College women's soccer team has had two players named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's All-American team.

Sophomore midfielder Megan Erskine, named to the 11-player first team, became the fifth woman in school history to be honored as a first-team All-American. Freshman Daisy Cardona, named to the 11-player second team, is the program's 11th All-America selection in 16 seasons.

"They both are totally deserving," said Ventura coach Steve Hoffman. "It's very exciting."

Erskine, a Buena High product, finished second in the state with 14 assists, including three in a win at rival Moorpark, and scored five goals.

Cardona, also a Buena High product, had 20 goals and 14 assists. She was fifth in the state in points and sixth in goalscoring.

"That's pretty impressive, to have two kids in those groups," said Hoffman. "Usually, you risk splitting the vote. The only other time I've ever put two people up, we didn't get one."
With a 3.39 team GPA, Ventura was also earned the NSCAA's Team Academic Award, alongside the likes of Stanford, Yale and Harvard.

Now top seed, VC prepares for powerhouse

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The No. 3-seeded Ventura College women's soccer team (18-3) is now the highest seed remaining in the Southern California regional playoffs after a wild Saturday that saw three top seeds eliminated.

"When I first heard that I was shocked," said midfielder Megan Erskine. "It puts more pressure on us, but that's a good thing."

VC will host No. 11 Cypress (13-4-4), a three-time state champion, for a berth in the regional finals tonight at 5:30 p.m.

The Pirates, ranked No. 13 nationally, edged No. 14 East Los Angeles 2-1 Saturday and topped Cypress 1-0 Sept. 3 on Merissa Campos' long-range strike.

"Our last game was not our best game," said Erskine. "I'm sure it was because people were nervous. But there's no reason to be nervous. We've played this team before."

All four of Cypress' wins over VC have come in the postseason.

"It's been one of those stories," said Ventura coach Steve Hoffman. "They're very physical. It's probably the toughest second-round match we've ever had."

The match will be webcast at http://www.HomefieldSports.com.

VC women's soccer takes SBCC showdown

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The Ventura College women's soccer team grabbed the advantage in the Western State Conference race with yet another key win over Santa Barbara City Thursday night.

Daisy Cardona's 13th-minute goal and a tremendous team defensive effort enabled Ventura to knock off previously unbeaten and national No. 5 Santa Barbara City, 1-0, at the VC Sportsplex.

"The kids did well," said Ventura coach Steve Hoffman. "The players are stepping up to the plate right now."

Ventura took the lead in the 13th minute, when freshman striker Stephanie Hernandez flicked on a corner kick to set up fellow freshman Cardona.

The match was a meeting of two of the top teams in the country. Ventura (8-2) opened the season ranked No. 5 in the national coaches poll. Santa Barbara City (8-1) sat in that position this week.

High-scoring Santa Barbara had been averaging nearly four goals per game behind Jessica Domenchelli (nine goals, 24 points) and Katie Voss (seven goals, six assists) and hadn't scored less than two goals in each of its first eight matches.

But the Vaqueros have now lost nine straight to Ventura dating back to 2007, including seven straight shutout losses.

"We shut out their big guns," said Hoffman. "They hadn't been shut out all year, so we did well.

Santa Barbara has finished one place behind the Pirates in the WSC North for five years running.

"They're a good side," said Hoffman. "The pressure is now on them a little bit."

In opening 3-0 in WSC North play, Ventura has outscored its first three opponents 17-2. Santa Barbara City fell to 3-1.

VC women's soccer up to No. 3

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The Ventura College women's soccer team rose to the highest-water mark in the program's 16-year history this week when the Pirates (3-0) rose to No. 3 in the NSCAA national poll.

Ventura (3-0), the preseason No. 5-ranked team in the country, has done it by toppling the state's biggest programs.

From 1997 to 2005, the Long Beach City College and Cypress College women's soccer teams combined for nine straight state championships. Last week, the two powers combined for back-to-back losses at Ventura.

The Pirates topped Long Beach, 2-1, Thursday and Cypress, 1-0, Saturday in its annual B.K. Sports Community College Classic.

Ventura opened the season with a 7-0 win over two-time state champion DeAnza Aug. 27.

If the Pirates manage to win Friday afternoon at two-time state champion Santiago Canyon, they will have opened the season by defeating four programs who have combined to win 13 of the past 18 women's soccer state titles.

Click the jump for the full poll.

VC soccer opens at No. 5

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A sophomore-laden back line, a recruiting class full of promising freshman and one big-name transfer.

That's why the Ventura College women's soccer team will open up the season this weekend with the highest preseason ranking in school history.

The Pirates were ranked No. 5 when the National Soccer Coaches Association of America released its preseason two-year school poll.

"We're ranked pretty high," said Ventura coach Steve Hoffman, "and with the schedule we've got, we'll sink or swim."

Four of the Top 20 teams in the country are on the Pirates' schedule, including No. 7 Fresno City, No. 10 Santiago Canyon, No. 12 Cypress and No. 18 Los Angeles Pierce.

San Bernardino Valley, which ended the Pirates' season in last December's regional finals, is the nation's preseason No. 1.

After scrimmaging West Valley College Thursday in Saratoga, Ventura will open its season Saturday at DeAnza College in Cupertino.

Ventura returns several big pieces from a back line that kept 11 clean sheets a year ago, including goalkeeper Raelene Moreno, defenders Evelyn Medina, Kylee Haughton and Katelen Norris and midfielder Whitney Rosenheim.

The freshman class includes former Buena High forward Daisy Cardona, who scored in Thursday's scrimmage, and midfielder Hannah Ritchie returns to the team after a redshirt season.

"We've got good depth," said Hoffman. "It's a special group this year."

The Pirates received a big boost when former Buena High star Megan Erskine, who was called into a U.S. women's Under-20 national team camp in April, transferred in after playing 16 games for San Diego State last fall.

"It's like having a Joy Barry or a Chrissy Sanford," said Hoffman, comparing Erskine to the program's first two All-Americans.

Ventura will host its annual B.K. Sports Community College Classic next week, facing Long Beach City Sept. 1 and Cypress Sept. 3.

Orocio, Hoffman honored with WSC North women's soccer awards

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Ventura College forward Monique Orocio was named the WSC North Player of the Year after the Pacifica High product completed a sophomore season with 21 goals and 14 assists, including a 10-game goalscoring streak, for the champion Pirates.

Head coach Steve Hoffman was honored as the WSC North Coach of the Year for the sixth time after the Pirates regained the WSC North title for the 13th time in his 15 years

The All-WSC North first team included sophomore striker Yadira Toraya, sophomore attacker Taylor Benton, sophomore midfielder Lindsay Armenta, sophomore midfielder Taylor Steele and freshman striker Victoria Burnell of Ventura; sophomore striker Lindsey McClellan, sophomore midfielder Briana Brooskin and freshman midfielder Katheryn Klamecki of Moorpark; and sophomore attacker Maricruz Magana of Oxnard.

The second team included sophomore Sabrina Munoz, freshman Evelyn Medina, freshman Whitney Rosenheim and freshman Hope Weber of Ventura; freshman Samantha Gavirati and freshman Lauren Kawamoto of Moorpark; and sophomore Ashley Arana and freshman Jessica Martinez of Oxnard.

Click the jump for the full team.

Burnell's Homecoming Friday

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Two of the Top 5 teams in the state will meet this afternoon when the Ventura College women's soccer team (11-2-2) visits host Fresno City (11-2-2) at 4 p.m.

The trip up Route 99 will be a homecoming for the lone Pirates' player from outside Ventura County.

Freshman striker Victoria Burnell had one of the more astounding careers in state history at Liberty High in Madera, scoring 211 goals in her four-year career, the third-highest total in state history.

"In the beginning, it was a little difficult, because I didn't really know anybody," said Burnell of her Ventura experience. "But it's been really fun. It's been a great experience for me. It's so exciting to play with all these great players."

Burnell, who scored an incredible 61 goals as a senior last winter, scoring four or more times in eight games, was also Liberty's Homecoming queen.

She made the trip north Thursday to give away her crown to the new queen.

Some childhood friends have put together an invitation to today's match on Facebook, so the road rooting section should be boosted by a large Liberty contingent.

"I'm guessing a lot," said Burnell.

Burnell's freshman season in Ventura has been slowed by a slightly torn meniscus. She has 11 goals and six assists in playing time limited by the knee injury.

"With her it's a matter of how many minutes she can play," said Ventura coach Steve Hoffman. "We leave it up to her."

Her contributions have usually been limited to 15 or 20 minutes per game.

"Every now and then it gets irritated," said Burnell. "I'm bummed that I'm going to have to have surgery after the season... But I'm still having a lot of fun playing."

Shutting it down

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Combining for 33 goals and 23 assists in 15 games, the attacking trident of Victoria Burnell, Monique Orocio and Yadira Yoraya have kept the Ventura College women's soccer team a dangerous attacking team after the graduation of Jazmarae Strozier.

But the Pirates have showed they are a force on both ends of the pitch this month, when they hadn't allowed a goal entering Friday's loss at Fresno City.

Ventura's shutout streak, which includes seven complete WSC North matches, grew to 717 minutes after Tuesday's 5-0 win over West Los Angeles

A season-ending injury to fullback Susana Alonso forced Hoffman to shift to a 3-4-3 formation and a sweeper system, complete with marking backs.

With sophomore Taylor Steele (St. Bonaventure High) at sweeper and Evelyn Medina (Pacifica) and Kylee Haughton (Ventura) at marking backs, as well as reserves Katelyn Norris (Ventura) and Whitney Rosenheim (Agoura), the Pirates have been nearly impenetrable.

Ventura last allowed a goal Sept. 28, when Cuesta scored in the third minute.

"And that was a free kick," said Hoffman. "It wasn't even from open play."

Stung by rival Moorpark a year ago, Ventura (11-2-2, 8-0) has used its eight-match winning steak to move into position to regain the WSC North title, leading second-place Santa Barbara City (12-2-2, 6-1-1) by five points and third-place Moorpark (9-4-2, 5-2-1) by eight points

Orocio lifts VC women into first place

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If the Ventura College women's soccer team has a say, Santa Barbara City may never see its time come.

Monique Orocio scored two more big-game goals Tuesday night as Ventura prevailed in a battle of Western State Conference unbeatens, 2-0, at the VC Sportsplex.

Santa Barbara, in search of its first WSC North title, entered play as the No. 13-ranked team in the national coaches' rankings, averaging 3.6 goals per game and 10-0 when scoring two goals or more.

It left chasing the Pirates, who are back on track for their 13th banner.

"Obviously, we felt like we should have won the league last year and we're still smarting from (being edged by Moorpark)," said Ventura coach Steve Hoffman. "But I told the sophomores before the season that they have a chance to make it right."

And they have responded, especially the Pacifica High product up front.

"(Orocio) is just on fire right now," said Hoffman.

Orocio, who had a hand in three of the goals in last week's 4-0 win over rival Moorpark, scored in the 11th and 65th minutes as the Pirates overcame a weather delay.

"It was hard to get back on track, but we did," said Orocio of the delay, which began when lightning flashed overhead in the 33rd minute. "Everyone worked together."

Her opener was assisted by freshman Victoria Burnell. For the secod, she took a pass from Whitney Rosenheim, beat two defenders and chipped the goalkeeper for a magnificent solo goal.

The first-place Pirates (9-2-2) improved to 5-0 in the WSC North, three points ahead of Santa Barbara (10-1-1, 4-1).

"Everyone else is playing catch up right now," said Hoffman.

Santa Barbara features striker Jessica Domennchelli, whose 13 goals are the fourth-highest figure in the state, but Ventura goalkeeper Raelene Moreno made six saves for her fifth straight shutout ahead of a backline shepherded by Taylor Steele, Evelyn Medina and holding midfielder Lindsey Armenta.

"There's nobody on their team that really troubled us," said Hoffman. "We're playing well right now."

VC soccer falls to national No. 1

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They may be separated by only six places in the national poll, but the Ventura College women's soccer team found out Friday night why Santiago Canyon is the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.

Kimmie Oltmanns opened the scoring and closed the book as Santiago Canyon, the defending state and national champions, beat Ventura, 5-2, Friday night at the VC Sportsplex.

"That's why they're a top side," said Ventura coach Steve Hoffman. "I think we have a little bit of work to do.

Both teams reached the state Final Four a year ago and entered Friday unbeaten on the season, but Oltmanns separated the two teams by converting a 10th-minute corner kick and the Hawks (3-0-1) took flight.

Ventura (2-1-1) trailed 3-0 when freshman Victoria Brunell scored her fourth goal of the season and sophomore Yadi Toraya pulled the Pirates within 4-2 with 12 minutes to play.

But Oltmanns completed the scoring two minutes into second-half stoppage time to complete the rout.

"It was a shame because we played better in the second half," said Hoffman. "But they showed why they're a top team. When you have seven shots and score five goals, you're a good side."

Strozier named VC's third first-team soccer All-American

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Ventura College sophomore Jazmarae Strozier will be honored Saturday at the annual National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention in Philadelphia.

Ventura's eighth women's soccer All-American, Strozier will join Joy Berry (1997) and Allie Avina (2004) as the program's third first-team selection.

"That's a pretty good feat," said Hoffman.

Had Strozier been able to attend in frigid Philly, Hoffman would have gladly bundled up for the player who consistently turned up the heat on opposing defenses.

Strozier finished her two-year career with an impeccable goalscoring record, netting 49 times in 51 games. Her 109 career points tied her with Sienna Kluck as the program's all-time leading scorer.

Strozier helped lead the Pirates to their first state Final Four berth, despite suffering a torn meniscus in the regional semifinal win over Santa Monica, and a No. 7 ranking in the final national poll, the Pirates' highest finish.

As a Buena High senior, Strozier verbally committed to USC, where her father, former honorable mention Moorpark College football All-American Clint Strozier, helped win the 1976 Rose Bowl.

"We're working on that right now," said Hoffman. "That's where she hopes to go. It's a good place for her."

Hoffman on VC's state semifinal loss

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Ventura College women's soccer coach Steve Hoffman on the 3-0 loss to Consumnes River in the state semifinals Friday morning in Sacramento.

"On the day, they were a little bit better than we were," said . "I was disappointed in our performance."

Ventura (19-4-1) was boosted by Jazmarae Strozier's return from injury. The Buena High product started and played the full match 10 days after injuring her knee in the regional semifinal win over Santa Monica.

"She was fine. She was healthy."

"I talked to her at halftime and she was 100 percent. She just didn't get her shots."

Ventura went down 1-0 on a beautiful goal by Consumnes River star Dani Arellano, who took a long pass and flicked the ball over the head of a defender before finishing cooly.

"You can't teach that. It's something you learn playing soccer all your life."

With the loss, Ventura fell to 0-8 in postseason play away from home.

"We just never got the second bounce... It's hard when you go on the road in these games."

Strozier to start state semi

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Ventura College sophomore attacker Jazmarae Strozier will start the state semifinal against No. 5-N Consumnes River this morning at 10 a.m., according to VC coach Steve Hoffman.

"We don't know how long she'll go, but she's going to play," said Hoffman.

Strozier, the state's co-leader in goals alongside Consumnes River's Dani Arellano with 30, injured a knee scoring her third goal of the postseason in the regional semifinal win over Santa Monica.

Hoffman also said that freshman defender Lauren Nelson had drawn the assignment of marking Arellano, who was featured in this morning's Sacramento Bee as the ultimate soccer mom.

We will have live coverage of the state semifinal live from Sacramento here on the blog and on our Twitter feed. Kickoff is at 10 a.m.

State soccer Final Four print coverage

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Feature: VC pair eyes a bigger goal by Joe Curley

Semifinal preview: Strozier's return could be key for VC by Joe Curley

College Sports Blog
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Ventura County Star sports writer and columnist Joe Curley covers college sports and soccer for this Star. This is the place to click for local college football and basketball coverage, including USC, UCLA, Moorpark College, Ventura College and Cal Lutheran.

Curley will update from live events and also interject with periodic comment on both international soccer and the local Ventura County Fusion.