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Ladek scores two goals in 4:38, sparking Vaqueros to 2-0 playoff win

Mila Ladek used her left foot to score twice in less than five minutes to give SBCC a 2-0 halftime lead. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)
Mila Ladek used her left foot to score twice in less than five minutes to give SBCC a 2-0 halftime lead. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)

It was all about positioning for Mila Ladek as she scored two goals in a 4:38 stretch of the first half on a chilly Tuesday night and SBCC went on to blank Santa Monica 2-0 in a Southern Cal Regional semifinal at La Playa Stadium.

"I realized early on that they were on one side of the field most of the time, so I just tried to be in that open space," said Ladek, a sophomore midfielder who transferred to SBCC from the University of La Verne. "I called for the ball very loudly and they passed it through and I shot it with my left foot."

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Ashlee Schouten set-up Ladek's first goal with a pass to her left at 34:12. Schouten became SBCC's single-season assist leader with her 17th of the year. Ladek went forward into open space on the left side and beat the keeper over her outstretched hands.

Just 4:38 later, at the 38:50 mark, Riley Moore passed to Ladek and it was almost a replay of the first goal as she lobbed a left-footed shot over Yosemite Cruz's arms and into the top part of the goal.

"We did a really good job of connecting and they found my feet," said Ladek, after scoring her fifth and sixth goals of the year. "It was good to get a 2-0 lead early on."

The third-seeded Vaqueros (16-2-2) won their fifth straight game and completed an unbeaten home campaign (10-0) for the second straight year. Santa Barbara outscored its 10 opponents at home 36-2 this year and has won 23 in a row in La Playa.

"There's something about playing under the lights and being on home turf," Ladek stated. "This is our field. We don't want anyone to beat us, nor will we let anyone beat us. We bleed red and white and black."

The Vaqueros are 14-0-1 in their last 15 games. No. 6 Santa Monica finishes at 15-3-4.

Moore fired a shot off the right post in the 45th minute and the Vaqueros led 2-0 at halftime.

Santa Barbara outshot the Corsairs 19-9, including 8-5 in shots on-target.

Isabella Viana came close to scoring in her 10th straight game, firing a one-time shot just wide right in the 53rd minute and another that rolled past the left post in the 55th.

Lourdes Marin-Rodriguez hit the crossbar at 72:31, then Santa Monica produced a flurry of shots in the a 10-minute period. Holly Telliard leaped high to poke a 30-yard shot by Filippa Struxsjo over the bar in the 80th minute. Six minutes later, she made a diving stop for her fifth save of the match.

"Mila took her shots very well," said 14th-year coach John Sisterson. "They were man-marking Bella, which  created space for Mila to get in the back door and she smashed both of them in with her left foot.

"Their goalie had a few nice saves and Holly had a tremendous one on that long shot. It can be tough for a goalie who hasn't had much to deal with and then, all of a sudden, she gets called on late in the game. She was very good when she needed to be."

The Vaqueros are seeking their third straight trip to the State Final 4. They're one step away and they'll travel to undefeated Santiago Canyon (No. 2 seed, 21-0) on Saturday for a 2 p.m. clash. The Hawks beat Rio Hondo 1-0 on Tuesday afternoon.

SBCC has experience with winning at Santiago Canyon. Two years ago, the Vaqueros were the 14th seed and they went to Orange and upset the second-seeded and unbeaten Hawks 1-0. Last year, they beat five-time defending state champion Cerritos 1-0 in the Regional final at La Playa.

"We have a very good chance at Santiago Canyon," said Ladek. "We're connecting very well as a team and our chemistry has gotten so great. We have a very, very good chance of getting back to the Final 4."