For the first time since 2012, the Yucaipa High School girls soccer team clinched the Citrus Belt League title. It is the first league championship for four-year coach Sarai Stamper.
“It is a glorious feeling,” Stamper said after the Thunderbirds captured the championship last week.
The Thunderbirds, who finished 10-1-3 in league and 17-4-4 overall, were scheduled to play a first-round CIF playoff game at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, at home against Claremont High (18-5-4 overall).
“It is an honor to be a coach for YHS and I’m proud to have a team that represents its school and community in such a positive way,” Stamper said. “Our league is very competitive and my girls fought hard each game to earn this championship.”
Besides it being her first, the league championship held another special meaning, Stamper said.
“This title feels extra special because it was won in honor of captain Jamie Figueredo’s mother, Dena, who passed away in the middle of our soccer season just three years ago,” Stamper said.
A strong defense, including goalkeepers Tayler Milner and Taylor Jackson, and creating and capitalizing on scoring opportunities led the Thunderbirds to the championship, Stamper said. Leading the offense was freshman sensation Leili Sanabia, who scored a league-leading 25 goals.
“The way these girls support one another, both on and off the field, has created a positive team dynamic, which had a great influence on our success,” Stamper said.
Last year, the Thunderbirds finished second in the CBL, the previous best under Stamper. They had a home playoff game, but fell to Pacifica High School, 3-1, in the first round.
“We are peaking at the right time and our squad is healthy,” Stamper said about this year’s CIF playoffs. “Of course, there are some extraordinary teams in Division 2, but I believe we are one of those teams.”