El Camino Real girls soccer tops Palisades for chance at 14th City title

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ENCINO — The El Camino Real girls soccer team has made the Sepulveda Basin Sports Complex its home field this season after the LA Unified School District deemed the field at the school an unsafe playing surface.

The facility is nice enough, but the team has to take a school bus to get there, and the field doesn’t have a working scoreboard.

It’s not holding the Royals back, though, as they added to their shutout streak by beating Palisades 2-0 on Tuesday afternoon in the City Section Division I semifinals.

“I don’t even look at the time, I just want to play,” Sharon Alcocer said, referring to the scoreboard. “It doesn’t matter how long. Forty minutes, 45 minutes, five minutes, you still have to go and play your hardest.”

El Camino Real will try to win its 14th City title when it faces Cleveland in the final. The time and location will be announced Thursday, according to the City’s spokesperson.

Cleveland edged Granada Hills in penalty kicks in the other semifinal.

Alcocer scored both goals for ECR. The first one came at 17 minutes on a shot from inside the penalty area and the second came at the start of the second half at 43 minutes. She launched a long ball that grazed the crossbar and then went down to the back of the net.

“I’m like, I’ve just gotta keep going,” Alcocer said. “Keep on grinding, making good passes to go forward and make my teammates score more goals. Just go at the goal as fast as possible.”

El Camino Real’s offense was without speedy forward Julie Lopez, who was called up to the U20 Mexican National team training camp. Lopez will return for the championship game.

In her absence, Alcocer and Nikki Velasco shouldered the load offensively for the Royals (14-3-3). In the first half, Velasco won a battle for the ball near the sideline, then took it in for a shot that went wide left of the goal.

Sharon Alcocer scores at 17′ and El Camino Real takes a 1-0 lead over Palisades.

— Haley Sawyer (@haleymsawyer) February 21, 2023

“She was dangerous, taking a lot of people on,” coach Eric Choi said of Velasco. “She created a lot of chances for us and she’s one of the best players on my team and one of the best players in the area.”

Palisades (14-2-2) had two quality scoring opportunities at the 33- and 35-minute marks. A shot went wide on the first attempt and the defense cleared out a corner kick on the second.

Riding the two-goal momentum, El Camino Real controlled their attacking third for most of the second half.

The Royals have not allowed a goal this season, shutting out every opponent. They beat North Hollywood 5-0 in the first round of the playoffs and Los Angeles CES 3-0 in the second round before facing Palisades.

“We read the game well,” Choi said. “We kept them in front of us and we read the game well. We didn’t let them get behind us too often. We’ve been playing solid. Nothing overly spectacular today, just solid.”

The game was played hours after El Camino Real High School was temporarily placed on lock down after a reported shooting on campus, according to reports. The lock down lasted from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Choi said that staff and students quietly remained in classrooms with the campus closed, and that an active shooter drill was conducted two weeks prior.

Sarah Alcocer scores her second goal of the game off the crossbar. El Camino Real 2, Palisades 0. 43′

— Haley Sawyer (@haleymsawyer) February 22, 2023

“As a teacher, when I heard it, I had to close everything up,” Choi said. “It was (stressful) for me more than the girls.”

The players remained focused Tuesday, and will stay that way for the championship game, which could be played in the rain.

“Going hard, strong and just staying with a really good mentality of going out and having fun,” Alcocer said. “We really deserve the win because we’ve worked so hard during the season.”

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