For the first time in a decade, the Dons women’s soccer team made the regional playoffs ending a historic drought.
Despite starting the season 6-0, they struggled to a 1-9-1 record, losing four in a row. But a late-season surge ending with a three-game winning streak, helped Santa Ana finish the season 10-8-2, and earning it the last seed in the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs.
By being seeded last, the Dons started on the road, facing No. 14 Cuesta College before returning to meet rival Santiago Canyon Hawks two days later.
After winning in the last minute of double overtime against Cuesta on Nov. 21, the Dons’ playoff run ended two days later in a penalty shootout against defending state champions SCC.
They faced fierce competition during the first two rounds of the playoffs,
The game versus Cuesta was challenging, going the full 90 minutes and into overtime. Santa Ana took the lead in the 64th minute of the second half when Linda Gutierrez scored, making it a 1-0. Cuesta tied the game 1-1 in the 87th minute. In the second half of overtime, Gutierrez scored the winning goal sending the Dons into the second round.
“We played hard, and hard work will always beat talent,” Gutierrez said.
The second-round game against the Hawks went the full 90 minutes and into double overtime. However, it was still not enough to decide a winner. The Dons fell short, losing 3-1 in a penalty shootout.
Making the playoffs was not guaranteed.
Santa Ana started the season undefeated, allowing only one goal against. Forward Leyna Wood and midfielder Linda Gutierrez were vital throughout the season. Wood was the leading scorer in the Orange Empire Conference with 24 goals, while Gutierrez ranked fourth in the OEC with 14.
“We started off strong, but I definitely think we went through a rough patch during conference play,” Wood said.
Despite the mid-season slump, SAC got back on track, winning three out of five and only allowing three goals against in the process.
“We overcame the adversity and were able to finish on a three-game win streak and did what we needed to make the playoffs,” Wood said.