Steele Canyon's Alyssa Campa (in a photo from last season) has joined forces with Zoe Papike and Savanna Nager at the top of the Cougars' attack.
Oceanside Junior Zoe Papike has truly stepped forward for the Steele Canyon High girls soccer team this season.
From her usual position as a center back, Papike has moved up front as part of a revamped lineup for the five-time defending Grossmont Hills League champion following the graduation of 10 starters from last season.
Papike showed how she’s fitting into the new spot by opening the scoring in the second half of the Girls Elite final against Rancho Cucamonga in the 20th annual Southern California Classic on Tuesday at El Camino High.
It appeared that Papike’s goal might be enough for the Cougars to avenge a loss to the same foe in last year’s final. However, Rancho Cucamonga (9-1-1) rallied to prevail 2-1 on a golden goal 10 minutes into overtime for its third straight tourney title.
Still, the effort by Papike offers an early-season highlight for Steele Canyon (4-4-5) since she caught the goalkeeper off the line to convert a midrange shot off an assist from Savanna Nager 12 minutes into the second half.
“After the pass forward, I ran as fast as I possibly could to get that touch on my right foot,” said Papike, who recorded her third goal of the season. “Since I don’t usually play forward, that goal was one of the best feelings.”
With the Cougars deep on defense, Papike drew the assignment at forward in part because of her speed. While playing year-round soccer, she also has competed part-time in track in the sprints.
“I want to go wherever I can help the team the most,” Papike said.
Nagar and fellow junior Alyssa Campa join Papike in comprising the top of the Steele Canyon attack. Spearheading the midfield has been senior Briana Daoust, the team’s one returning starter.
“I like how we have our lineup now,” said Cougars coach Charlie Cleaves, whose squad vies next week in the National Elite Prep Showcase in the Dallas area. “We’ve been playing high-level competition and testing everyone on the team.”