Sports

Heralds keep up the pressure, earn first league victory

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

SUN VALLEY – After transferring over to Whittier Christian early last year, Heralds’ forward Malik Marshall took to the playing field for the first time since being ruled ineligible for a year, last January.

In his first game back, the senior scored twice and helped the Heralds pick up their first Olympic League victory, a 2-1 win over Village Christian, Tuesday afternoon at Village Christian School.

“He’d been practicing with us all year and our guys were just dying for him to get out there,” said Matt Rojas, Whittier Christian head coach. “He’s an offensive threat, he’s a big guy, he’s powerful and he has a knack for the goal. It’s exciting to have him out there.”

Marshall was placed at the center forward position and used his combination of size and footwork to consistently put pressure on the Crusaders defense.

While the combination didn’t result in any goals in the first half, he picked up two quick goals in the second half after the coaching staff moved Dylan Murphy up to the front line with him.

With Murphy’s added pressure, Marshall drove deeper into the box and took advantage of two opportunities less than five yards away from the goal.

Marshall’s first goal occurred in the 41st minute when a cross from Chase Gray bounced off the goalkeeper’s hands and straight to the waiting right foot of Marshall.

Two minutes later, Marshall was at it again. Marshall sprinted to catch up to a cross from Murphy and slid to poke the ball in. After it ricocheted back and forth, it trickled in over Village Christian keeper Aaron Lopez, giving the Heralds a 2-0 lead.

“I had anticipated at least one goal in the first half, but we didn’t get it,” Rojas said. “I wasn’t too worried, but I was a little apprehensive about pulling [Dylan] out. My assistant coach was the one who pushed for it and it ended up working out, it relieved Malik up top, which gave him more opportunities and he put them away.”

Despite controlling the tempo and positioning for most of the game, the Heralds (2-14-0, 1-3-0) couldn’t expand on the lead and the Crusaders found new life in the 64th minute off the left foot of freshman forward Matthew Rodriguez.

After corralling a pass, Rodriguez found space and rifled a 30-yard shot that sailed directly over goalkeeper Jeff Hargrave, bounced off the cross bar and found the back of the net.

Two minutes later, Rodriguez had another chance when he used his speed to beat a defender for a breakaway.

However, Hargrave challenged and knocked it out of bounds. The Crusaders (1-14-0, 0-4-0) didn’t get another strong opportunity as the Heralds controlled the ball.

“Practice was key for this game, we worked on a lot of possession, we set up obstacles to get around while keeping possession,” Rojas said. “A lot of our training has been based on that lately and they’ve been doing a good job, they’ve been hungry, they’re not happy with the losses, so our practices have picked up.”

Murphy made a brilliant save in the first half on another breakaway by Rodriguez. As goalkeeper, Murphy recognized a low shot and dropped down to knock it straight up in the air with his left arm. He then leaped up to catch the ball over the freshman forward.

For the Heralds, the win was much needed as it puts them on the board in the Olympic League.

Whittier Christian will continue its league season with a Thursday afternoon game against Heritage Christian at home. The Warriors defeated Whittier Christain 7-0 the first time through league play.

“We definitely want to carry over the ball control and the possession style,” Rojas said. “I know it will be a lot more difficult to be offensive, but as long as they keep control of that ball, it’ll give us the confidence to maybe have more opportunities. It won’t be as easy, but I think if we keep the style of play going along with the optimism and positivity, we should be all right on our home field.”

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.