Alexia Zatarain has shouldered much of the responsibility this year in upholding Canyon High’s girls’ soccer tradition. Although the Cowboys fell short of a fifth consecutive Foothill League title, Zatarain has done her best to ensure Canyon’s return to the Southern Section Div. II playoffs. The senior midfielder also made sure she’ll play soccer after her time with the Cowboys is over, signing a letter of intent Tuesday to compete at Division II UC San Diego. Zatarain, an all-league first-team selection last season on a team with six players who went on to college soccer last fall, is following the path of former teammates Nini Loucks (USC), Shannon Omahen (Loyola Marymount) and Bree Caceres (Arizona), among others. “It was kind of hectic, and it got scary at times, because I didn’t know if I’d play in college,” said Zatarain, who had a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over Saugus. “Now I can relate to (my former teammates) more, because I know what they all had to go through.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card At the beginning of the season, Zatarain was pursued by several East Coast schools, but she decided to remain closer to her family. “I really like the school I’m going to,” said Zatarain, who is expected to compete for a position in the midfield. “They have a really good science program, which is what I’m looking to focus on, and I really like (coach Brian McManus). He is (who) did it for me.” With the pressure of making a college decision out of the way and Canyon focusing on a strong showing in the Div. II playoffs, Zatarain wants to extend her prep career as long as possible. “(Not winning league) was not a completely bad thing. I’m not disappointed about how things turned out,” said Zatarain, who plays her final regular-season game today at Valencia. “I realize my time here is coming to an end, and I just want to go out there and play and enjoy the experience and get these girls ready for next year.” A change in focus: Thanks to Zatarain’s performance, Saugus (15-3-1 overall, 7-2 Foothill) enters today’s finale against visiting Hart (21-3-1, 8-0-1) no longer contention for the league title and instead in need of a victory to hold on to second place. The Centurions’ 11 seniors set out to win the program’s first league title since 1995, but a 3-0 loss Jan. 20 to Hart, combined with Tuesday’s setback at Canyon, eliminated Saugus from the championship picture. Hart defeated Burroughs 7-0, then enjoyed an early celebration by watching Canyon (13-4-3, 6-3) defeat Saugus, enabling the Indians to clinch their first league title since 2000. Saugus defeated Hart in the regular-season finale last year to move into a tie for second with Valencia. The Centurions need a similar result today to build momentum for the playoffs. “We can’t do what we did (last month) at Hart, that’s for sure,” Saugus coach Lisa Rollo said. “We need to win (today). We need to polish what we need to polish and sharpen what we need to sharpen and come out with intensity and consistency and just want it more than they do. “They’re playing really well right now. They’re playing with a lot of energy, and they’re communicating, and everything’s clicking for them. We need to play our best game (today). We need to shine our shoes and come out strong from the beginning.” Something at stake: Hart is seeking to finish unbeaten in Foothill play for the first time since the 1997-98 season, something they can accomplish with a victory at Saugus today. Hart finished 9-0-1 in league in 1997-98 during its run of seven titles in 1994-2000. Erik Boal, (818) 713-3607 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!