A Millard West youth movement continued Tuesday night.
All the way to the top of Class A.
The third-ranked Wildcats got a goal from freshman Brenna Ochoa in the 12th minute and rode it to a 1-0 victory over No. 2 Millard North in the girls title game at the state soccer tournament at Creighton's Morrison Stadium.
After a freshman had scored the equalizer and three first-year players had scored in the shootout of a semifinal win over defending champion Omaha Marian, another rookie came up big in the championship.
“I'm just speechless,” Millard West coach Jacque Tevis-Butler said.
A run down the right seam produced a little space for Ochoa. Her floater towards the left side of the goal eluded Millard North keeper Kylynn Moyer and found the upper left corner to put the Wildcats up 1-0 early.
“I saw that there was a defender coming one on one with me, and I just saw an open goal and I knew that I had to take that chance,” she said of her fifth goal of the season. “I have to use all my chances.”
And her reaction when she saw it go in?
“I can't even explain it,” Ochoa said. “It was the best feeling ever.”
Tevis-Butler said Ochoa's effort wasn't a surprise. It just took a majority of the season to finally bring out her potential, the coach said.
“I've been watching 'B' play soccer since she was little,” Tevis-Butler said. “That's the player that I thought she could have been all year. It took her awhile to really shine. This tournament she just lit it up.
“She creates chances like that herself. She's phenomenal on the ball. She's been a little hesitant I think to beat somebody and shoot.”
Millard North was able to muster a few equalizing opportunities, but had an uphill battle for the game's final 12 minutes after junior defender Holly Hild was shown her second yellow card of the game, adding up to a red card. That left the Mustangs playing down one.
But running into a hot Millard West team was the real challenge, Mustangs coach John Walsh said.
“They had the momentum,” Walsh said. “They had that nice hit. We just couldn't get on the end of one.”
Tevis-Butler said she saw a few nerves out of not just her eight freshmen but her entire team.
No one on the Wildcat squad had been in a state title game before Tuesday. Several players from Millard North's 2011 championship team were looking for a second.
“Millard North was a different challenge for us,” Tevis-Butler said. “Their shape and the style of play was just a totally different challenge, so I think it took us awhile to adjust to that in this match. Millard North is a great team, a really great team. I'm just proud of our kids for being able to fight through it.”
The shutout was the 11th of the season for Millard West's senior keeper, Jordan Cassalia, an All-Nebraska selection a season ago and an Army recruit.
She won't be back for a run at a repeat next year, but 19 of the 24 listed on the Wildcat roster will return.
“We still have so much growing to do,” Tevis-Butler said. “We are not a finished product.”
Millard West (13-3) ........... 1 0—1
Millard North (16-2) ........... 0 0—0
Goal: Brenna Ochoa.
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