SP's Rianni Gonzales Looks To Carry Momentum Into Playoffs

San Pedro High girls soccer sophomore midfielder Rianni Gonzales has been quite the player who, like the team, has found themselves in the second half of the season.

Gonzales started slow along with the team, who began 1-8-1 before Marine League play started, but since then, the Pirates have improved to 10-9-1 and claimed their ninth consecutive league title as they open the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I playoffs today as the seventh seed against visiting No.10 Bell at San Pedro High.

In fact, it was Gonzales' goal off a 20-yard free kick early in the second half against rival Narbonne of Harbor City on February 12 that delivered the Marine League title for San Pedro.

"I was so honored (coach Elisa De La Pena-Nagle) had confidence in me to take that direct shot," Gonzales said of her dramatic goal, which she perfectly shot off the left side of the post past Narbonne sophomore goalie Brittany Plunkett and glanced into the net. "Scoring that game-winning goal was meant to be. I also couldn't let our seniors who played their last league game as a Pirate down."

Gonzales has seven goals and three assists this season for San Pedro, who overcame the rough beginning and a shocking loss to Banning of Wilmington two days before the win over Narbonne which ended the Pirates' 95-game league undefeated streak (87-0-8).

Even though the rough start to the year would be horrifying for some, that never was a question to Gonzales' resolve as being a part of a program that has now won 13 Marine League titles in the last 14 years since 2000.

"I'm so proud to be part of SPHS girls soccer," Gonzales said. "We started off preseason rocky but once we got to league we fought for our league title."

Soccer is in Gonzales' blood, as her mother Crystal Valdes is the junior varsity head coach, and her older sister Chatelaine "Shadow" Ansaldi, is a former All-City selection who once made a dramatic goal of her own in a 2-2 tie with Banning in the game's final second during her senior year in 2012. Her younger sisters Isis and Alexis are already accomplished players.

Pretty soon, Gonzales will likely be supporting someone else in the family.

"The night before the Narbonne game, I stayed up late watching my first nephew being born in Ace Michael Dunphy," Gonzales said. "So coming onto the field I knew I needed to perform no matter what. Ace was born on the 11th at 11 pm, and 11 is my jersey number. That game-winning goal was meant to be."

In the second half of league, Gonzales has been on fire, scoring five goals and assisting twice, including off a corner kick in a 6-0 win over Gardena on February 5 where she assisted fellow sophomore Gabriella Ma with a perfect set up that Ma head-butted in for the final goal. Gonzales scored twice in a 5-0 win over Washington of Los Angeles on January 31.

As the playoffs begin today, Gonzales is ready for more and has big designs for 2015 considering San Pedro only has three seniors (Julia Fuentes, Elizabeth Bertone and Jenny Rivera) this season.

"Our team has a lot of young talent and we'll definitely look to defend our (Marine League) title again," Gonzales said. "I look forward to the playoffs and going all the way. We're pumped for the challenge."

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