Rio Americano High School

The Mirada

Rio Americano High School

The Mirada

Rio Americano High School

The Mirada

Raiders Take Second in Girls NorCal Soccer

After winning Sac-Joaquin section Division 3 title, Rio Americano High School falls to University High School on PKs
The Rio Americano High School girls soccer team finished second in the CIF NorCal tournament after losing to University High School on PKs after a scoreless game in San Francisco on March 2.

After a hard-fought soccer game that ends after overtime in a zero-zero tie, deciding the winner by penalty kicks can feel like a matter of random luck. On their way to the Division 3 Northern California girls’ championship game, luck was with the Raiders. On March 2, playing for the title at San Francisco University High School, it was not.

Helped by some amazing saves by keeper Ariana Cano, the No. 6 seed Rio Americano opened the NorCal tournament, by beating  No. 3 Pleasant Valley in Chico on penalty kicks after tying 0-0 at the end of overtime. Then they topped No. 2 Los Gatos 1-0, before heading to San Francisco for the title match on a stormy Saturday afternoon. After 80 scoreless minutes against the No. 1 seed and No. 44 team in the country, Rio lost in PKs 3-2.

“It was sad,” said junior Kate Ludington. “But we made it really far and it was a good game. We were able to prevent them from scoring, and it didn’t hurt as much losing on penalty kicks, but it was still sad at the end.”

Sections Champs

The Rio girls varsity cruised through their league going undefeated with an 8-0-2 record, emerging first in the Capital Athletic League (CAL) after six years of second-place finishes.

With an incredible league campaign, the team was given the fourth seed in the Division 3 Sac Joaquin section playoffs. The Raiders won their first playoff game 4-0 against Rosemont, who themselves had an impressive 5-2-3 league record and 8-7-6 overall record.

The Raiders then tied Vista Del Lago 1-1 in the quarterfinal game after an enticing 80-minute game. Senior Sierra Betzler beat the defender on the right flank and crossed in a perfect ball for senior Dalilah Oakes to bury the ball in the back of the net for the breakthrough goal.

“When I scored I almost couldn’t believe it,” Oakes said. “I immediately ran to go celebrate with my teammates.” 

The Raiders ultimately won the game in extra time.

“I am very happy that we came away with the win,” Betzler said. “It is always a rivalry game against Vista and getting two assists against them in a playoff game is just the cherry on top for me.”

Furthering their streak, the Raiders got the 1-0 upset win against top-seeded West Park of Roseville in the semifinals. With 10 minutes left junior Sadie Burns took the corner kick and Betzler volleyed the goal.

Burns, who uses few words to describe her game, said the score “felt good,” adding that she was worried that West Park had time to answer.

They completed their streak with a 1-0 win against Oakdale at Cosumnes River College in the title game.

Sophomore Miley McNamee produced the lone goal off an assist by freshman Avery Popejoy, while the Raider defense held the Mustangs scoreless.

This is the Raiders’ seventh section crown.

“I know it sounds silly but one of the things that have kept all of us locked in for this entire season is knowing that we have the opportunity to win a hat,” Betzler said.

McNamee added, “I think our team’s biggest success this season was winning sections because it has been over a decade since the girls’ soccer team has made it to sections let alone won it.”

On the Road to the Title Game

Coming off of a section title the Raiders were given the sixth seed in the Division 3 CIF NorCal Girls Soccer Championship. 

Their first matchup was No. 3 seed Pleasant Valley. After an exciting 80 minutes of goal-to-goal action, the score remained 0-0, as extra time ticked down both teams just couldn’t score a goal. For the first time this season, the Raiders were faced with a penalty shootout. Freshman Ariana Cano put on a great display in goal, saving three penalties, helping the team to the 3-2 shootout victory. 

Next up for the Raiders was No. 2 seed Los Gatos. Getting an upset win has been no challenge for the Raiders this year, as five of their seven playoff games were upsets. 

Traveling to the Bay Area the Raiders knew that the weather would be another challenging factor in this game; however, they didn’t let that stop them. After a scoreless first half, a penalty was awarded to Rio. Senior Defender Zoe Cerivinka stepped up to take the PK and scored it. The Raiders were able to keep the 1-0 lead. 

“I was super excited and it felt good to know that we got to go on to the final,” said Cerivinka.

Showdown in SF

In the Division 3 CIF NorCal girls soccer championship finals the Raiders played University High School, ranked 44th in the Nation with a record of 19-1-4. 

Going into this game the Raiders knew that despite their 10-game winning streak mostly on the road this was going to be the toughest game of their season. They held University’s powerful offense scoreless, and for the second time this year, the Raiders ended up having to go to a penalty shootout. Unfortunately, the Raiders were not able to pull off the win in PKs this time, losing 3-2.

If the script sounds familiar, that might be because last year Rio’s boys won the Sac-Joaquin section title, but ultimately lost to Bellarmine College Prep (San Jose) on PKs in the NorCal championship game. 

A Team Effort

Players agreed that their success–including outscoring opponents 54-13 throughout the year and holding opponents scoreless in the NorCal tournament–was a team effort. 

“Sierra Betzler, Raegan Rossi, and Avery Popejoy were all standouts on offense. They are insanely fast and skilled which made our offense pretty unstoppable,” McNamee said. “Jen Merri and Hannah Hopkins were standouts on defense. They won almost every ball in the air and were able to lockdown anyone they marked.”

Ludington praised Rossi who “continued to create chances during games” and Hopkins who “played hard no matter who we were playing and was able to prevent goals against good teams.”

Burns noted the offensive play of freshman Sam Selch “because she knows how to finish her opportunities very well.” 

Athletic Director William Taylor also complimented the entire squad.

“It was a great run, and the team and all the players should be proud of their accomplishments, he said.  “The team are the Athletes of the Month for February, so congrats to the girls, coaches, and fan base.” 

With most of these players returning next year, the Raiders could write a different script for the title game–and luck won’t have anything to do with it. 


Varsity Players

Madelyn Aizenberg

Sierra Betzler

Sadie Burns

Ariana Cano

Zoe Cervinka

Mikayla Chacon

Tristan Chausee

Kaitlin Cooke

Berit Graham

Hannah Hopkins

Charlie Jones

Kate Ludington

Miley McNamee

Jennifer Merri

Dalilah Oakes

Avery Popejoy

Nikki Porter

Gabbi Ross

Raegan Rossi

Samantha Selch


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Ethan Woodhouse, Staff Writer

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  • Samuel ChiApr 9, 2024 at 6:58 PM

    The Rio girls did a really good job! They should be really proud of how far they got even if they did end up coming short