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AOW: Long helps Spartans claim IVL crown

February 20, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

For 40 minutes the Central Union High girls soccer team played arguably its worst half of soccer all year and was looking at a 1-0 deficit.

Facing the possibility of losing the Imperial Valley League title, the Spartans played possibly their best half of soccer in a 4-1 triumph over Holtville High to take the IVL title.

Leading the second-half surge was 17-year-old junior Vanessa Long, who accounted for two Central goals and helped the Spartans put away the Vikings.

"We knew that we had to win that game if we wanted to win league," said Long. "Everyone knew what they had to do.

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"At halftime coach (Nabil) Noujaim talked to us and got us pumped up and motivated. He told us that game was what we had worked for and we deserved to be champions," added Long. "That game was really a story of two different halves. We were lagging in the first half and then got it going in the second."

Playing in only her second game as a midfielder, Long came through when her team needed it most. She had played most of the season as a defender but because she had played mid-field throughout her career playing offense wasn't a big deal.

While her team eventually won 4-1, Long said there was some doubt in her mind about the Spartans being victorious.

After dominating most of the other IVL teams, falling in a 1-0 hole to Holtville was a bit of a wake-up call for the Spartans. At that point she knew the game wasn't going to be easy.

But things haven't come easily to Central this year. Long said people talked about Southwest High being the favorite to win the IVL crown. That was enough to drive Long to want it even more.

"That's what everyone was talking about. And I really think a lot of people doubted us," said Long. "But everyone on this team was really dedicated and just focused on winning league.

"I think the biggest thing about this team is that everyone has heart. That's probably what sets us apart from the other teams," added Long. "I think because of that and us keeping our heads up we'll be able to make a run in CIF.'

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