Inland Girls Soccer Not Always Pretty

Things are not very pretty when it comes to girls soccer in the Inland Valley League.

To Moreno Valley Canyon Springs coach John Drew, there’s little sense of unity about representing the league, even in the playoffs. And the league games? They are often brutal contests that have been, to be fair, quite ugly.

Take the Inland Valley League’s best rivalry, Riverside Arlington vs. Moreno Valley Canyon Springs. The Lions have five girls already signed to Division I scholarships, while the Cougars are ranked better than 50th nationally. Both programs are perennial playoff teams with accomplished histories of success.

But the last time they played Arlington’s Melissa Martinez sustained a broken nose and suffered a concussion just 10 minutes into the game. “There was blood everywhere,” Martinez has said.

I covered the Arlington-Canyon Springs girls soccer game on Thursday, Jan. 18 and had a very interesting conversation with Canyon Springs’ Drew. His team lost, 3-2, on the run of play but he went on a lengthy tangent after the game about the attitudes among players and coaches in the IVL.

“It’s always physical. You can scream and yell but obviously there’s not a whole lot of love lost between each team. That’s how we’ve played the last 2-to-3 years,” Drew said.

“Documented in the press, Arlington players saying they hate us, they went to Mission Viejo (in last year’s playoffs) to cheer against us. To me, that’s showing no class. I want Arlington to do well. I want our league to do well because our league gets no respect. And when you read something like that you’re kinda like, ‘Oh. OK. Well maybe now we want an Orange County team to do better than an Inland Valley team?’ To me, if an Inland Valley team wins CIF, that means our league does well. I know we don’t like each other, but if you’re gonna quote somebody in the newspaper saying you went down to Mission Viejo to root against us because you hate us then don’t expect it to be a birthday party out here.”

The article Drew references could not be found after a not-too-exhaustive internet search but if he’s right, and Arlington players did travel to Mission Viejo to root against Canyon Springs?

That’s bulletin board material, at the very least. Fighting words and most.

And there have been fights, like the one between Moreno Valley Rancho Verde and Riverside Patriot at the Riverside Poly tournament earlier this year. Allegedly, spectator(s) got involved, and the girls on the field have been suspended from playing. The police were called to the scene but no arrests were made or charges filed.

With attitudes easily escalating and some referees unable to squelch on-field incidents from becoming fires, is there any reason to think that the answer to this problem is simply better decorum on the part of all participants?

“Canyon played a great game. Kudos to them,” said Arlington coach Kristin Cocks, displaying the appropriate amount of emotion in the victory. She’s been on the sideline for every game between the two schools.

She was quick to add the caveat: “We expected a physical game, with Melissa getting injured in the last game I knew the girls would be riled up. It’s a rivalry. It’s a great rivalry, and we knew it was going to be a battle.”

So maybe there isn’t a solution, so long as both sides agree on the terms of engagement.

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