by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
ONTARIO – Still seeking its first win of the season, the Whittier Christian girls’ soccer team got a second chance against Hacienda Heights Wilson, Saturday morning at Ontario Christian High.
After battling to a scoreless draw in regulation, the Lady Heralds fell in penalty kicks, 4-2, but the effort was a vast improvement over the 4-0 loss they suffered earlier this year.
With Meghan Buchanan playing sweeper, Whittier Christian limited the Ladycats’ attack. Amy Baray controlled and forced turnovers near midfield, but the Lady Heralds couldn’t connect in the offensive third.
“Having Meghan back there definitely changes things because she’s the one who organizes our defense and gets them settled,” said Nicole Nicolaides, Whittier Christian head coach. “Amy’s phenomenal, she’s so fast, so we can play in a higher press because they’re so quick that we’re not worried about a through ball, we know they can catch up to those. It allows us to push up our midfield too.”
Whittier Christian (0-11-2) had the game’s best scoring opportunity, when Buchanan knocked a header into the goal off a corner kick. However, forward Katie Pippen was called for a foul when she knocked into the goalkeeper and the score was nullified.
“We pull Meghan up on corner kicks because she’s really the only height we have on the team with Lizzie [Burns] out,” Nicolaides said.
In the second half, the Lady Heralds put a cross within close range, but Mariah Gishwiller couldn’t make solid contact and the ball skipped off to the right.
Wilson’s Caitlin Greenup provided the Ladycats (5-6-3) with their best chance at scoring by isolating herself in one-on-one situations and using her speed to get past defenders.
However, of her four chances, two were saved by Whittier Christian goalkeeper Klarissa Flores and the other two rolled wide of the goal.
Greenup also missed wide on a header off a free kick by forward Christina Flores.
In penalty kicks, Wilson’s first four shooters put the ball past Flores, while Wilson goalkeeper Minerva Lopez stopped the first two Whittier Christian shots.
Baray and Buchanan each knocked in a penalty kick for the Lady Heralds.
The Lady Heralds will now turn their attention to Olympic League play, where they open up with Maranatha, Jan. 14. Nicolaides hopes that a little extra time will help in getting some girls back from injury.
The Lady Heralds will be without midfielder Sophie Basalone, who is out for the season. Nicolaides hopes that Burns can return from her injury in mid-January.
“We’ve grown a lot as a team as far as our team chemistry goes because we’ve had so many injuries,” Nicolaides said. “We’ve had a lot of players stepping into positions that they’re not used to, but they’ve really had to rely on each other and that’s helped our team chemistry. They’re seeing each other on the field a lot better than they were earlier this year.”
Persistence paid off late for the Sonora girls’ soccer team in a 4-0 victory over Rancho Alamitos to close out the North Orange County Championships, Saturday morning at Sonora High.
After scoring just one goal in the first 62 minutes, the Lady Raiders put three shots in net within a five minute span and closed the tournament with a 2-1-1 record.
All four goals were scored by freshmen, with Monica Zaring leading the way with two goals. Defender Liliana Irizabal and forward Ashley Bordy accounted for the other two scores.
“We’ve already had conversations with them all, they’re on the team for a reason,” said Sonora head coach Alex Bengard of his freshmen. “In order for us to be successful, they’re going to have to step up and score goals and they know that. That’s the point of the preseason is for them to get clicking so that when we hit league they’re in full stride and can hopefully do some damage.”
After falling to Sage Hill, 2-1, earlier in the morning, the Lady Raiders bounced back and dominated time of possession against the Vaqueros.
“We knew that technically that was our final, so the girls gave everything they had there,” Bengard said about the Sage Hill matchup. “So some of the girls were a little tired and we had to go at it again an hour later with one sub because we’re banged up. That could be why it took us a little while to get going.”
However, for most of the game, the Lady Raiders couldn’t get an accurate final touch as opportunities either sailed wide, or went straight into the arms of Rancho Alamitos’ goalkeeper.
But Sonora took an early lead and defended it for nearly 60 minutes.
In the 5th minute, Zaring put Sonora up 1-0 when her shot bounced through the hands of the Rancho Alamitos goalkeeper and trickled in.
After missing a handful of opportunities, Irizabal doubled the lead by blasting a shot to the upper left corner when the Vaqueros failed to clear a corner kick.
“When one went in, it seemed like the others just followed,” Bengard said. “They did well, they got the win and did what they needed to do, I’ll take it.”
Two minutes later, Zaring knocked in her second goal with a header off a corner kick from Jessica Bautista.
Finally, just before the end of regulation, Zaring took a final shot that bounced off the goalkeeper’s hands and found the right foot of Bordy, who easily chipped it back in for the score.
Sonora also defeated Southeast High 9-0 and tied Bellflower High, 1-1, in the tournament.
“It was a good balance, we played some teams that I thought we were better than on paper and we were able to work on some things,” Bengard said. “We also played some teams that I thought we were pretty even with that challenged us. That’s what you want out of a tournament. We didn’t get all the results we wanted, but there are some things we can take from every game and apply them to the training field.”
The Lady Raiders will play another nonleague contest against Ayala High on the road, Jan. 9 at 3 p.m.