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GIRLS' SOCCER: DESERT CHRISTIAN IS IN FAMILIAR TERRITORY.

Byline: Erik Boal Special to the Daily News

Megan Couch couldn't help but be a little nostalgic Wednesday.

One of two remaining links to Desert Christian High's lone Southern Section girls' soccer title, the senior midfielder found herself reminiscing with four-year teammate Megan Fike about the final minutes of their 2003 championship-game victory over Milken Community of Los Angeles.

With eight minutes remaining, Couch played a ball along the wing to Angela Shoemaker, who crossed it to Fike, who headed it past a charging Milken goalkeeper for a 2-1 victory and the Div. VI title.

``I remember that day so clearly,'' said the UC Riverside-bound Fike, who plays next to Couch in the midfield. ``Megan and I were talking about that game, and how she passed the ball to Angela, and how I scored that goal, and how we could remember the final play of the game and the celebration. It brought back some great memories.''

Couch and Fike added another achievement to their resumes with Wednesday's 3-2 second-round victory over Alverno of Sierra Madre, advancing to the quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive year.

They will lead host Desert Christian (18-1-1) against top-seeded Western Christian of Covina (21-3-2) today at 3 p.m. at the Lancaster National Soccer Center, looking to return to the semifinals after a 2-1 loss to Sage Hill of Newport Beach in the round of eight last season.

``I'm really excited that we made it back again,'' said Couch, the only female player in the Antelope Valley this season with at least 20 goals and 20 assists. ``There's a lot of pressure on the younger players, but even after (Alverno) scored their two goals, we just had to calm down and play together as a team and keep encouraging each other on the field and stay unified.''

With Couch, Fike and senior goalkeeper Alyse Alcaraz providing valuable leadership, the Knights have been able to overcome several obstacles - among them, Fike sat out the first five games this season following surgery on her right knee and Alcaraz suffered a season-ending foot injury - to lead the area in goals scored (142) and fewest goals allowed (six).

They were challenged only a few times during the regular season, so Fike believes surviving Alverno's second-half pressure could be valuable for the Knights on their postseason journey.

``It gives a reminder to everyone that the games are going to get more challenging from here on out,'' said Fike, who had a goal and an assist in the victory, setting up one of Jaide Garcia's two goals. ``Since we don't have a lot of competition in our league, besides Bishop, we always look forward to the playoffs. We're always looking at the bigger picture.''

That picture no longer includes a possible finals rematch with Bishop, which won the High Desert League title by defeating Desert Christian 1-0 on Jan. 21. Bishop, seeded third in Div. VI, lost 1-0 Wednesday to Arrowhead Christian Academy of Redlands in a rematch of last year's final, also won 1-0 by the Eagles.

Bishop's loss caused Couch to notice a pattern that could help the Knights' cause the rest of the way.

``My freshman year, we didn't win league either,'' said Couch, who has 22 goals and 25 assists. ``Then we beat Windward, who was (the top seed), in the semifinals, and they hadn't lost all season.''

Desert Christian won the league last season but lost in the quarterfinals. Bishop finished second and reached the title game, giving Couch hope that the Knights can use the underdog role to their advantage again.

``(My freshman year) all the pressure was off. We just played game after game, setting a goal and trying our best to reach it,'' said Couch, who has signed to play at Kansas Wesleyan next fall. ``It was really amazing. No one expected us to be there or win it, but we stayed together and it paid off in the end.''

Couch and Fike have been part of 74 victories at Desert Christian, and they hope they can help produce at least one more to possibly set up a rematch with fourth-seeded Sage Hill in Tuesday's semifinals.

``It feels really good to be back on the field and playing, because these games have been the most competitive since I got injured,'' Fike said. ``We're hoping we can go all the way, so we can have some more memories like (the 2003 championship game).''

Erik Boal, (818) 713-3607

erik.boal(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

(color) Desert Christian's Megan Couch is one of the two remaining members of the 2003 Southern Section Div. IV title-winning team.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 24, 2006
Words:776
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