Lady Highlanders can’t contain Sunny Hills in second half
Story and photos by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal
After defending well in the first half, the La Habra girls’ soccer team couldn’t hold down a potent Sunny Hills offense in the second half, falling 3-0 on the road, Tuesday afternoon.
Scoreless at halftime, La Habra looked confident with just 40 minutes to play. However the Lady Lancers offense was just waiting to break out.
Sunny Hills (23-1-2, 7-0-0) has dominated the Freeway League, going undefeated while averaging 4.3 goals per game, but failed to capitalize on its opportunities against a young Lady Highlanders’ defense.
La Habra (9-8-2, 3-4-0) looked prepared to capitalize with odds in its favor.
Goalkeeper Katelyn Phinney was on fire and stopped everything in sight, and Sunny Hills faced the sun in the second half. Unfortunately for the Lady Highlanders, the clouds fell over the sun and so did their hopes of victory, as they surrendered their first of three goals in the 47th minute.
Controlling possession deep into the La Habra territory, Maribell Morales ripped a shot just under Phinney’s arm for the Lady Lancers’ first goal.
Sunny Hills’ constant pressure wore down the Lady Highlanders, which allowed Morales to eventually break through.
“As we got tired we gave them more space, then Maribel Morales took over,” said Matt Sanger, La Habra head coach. “The first goal she beat three of our girls, got a clean shot. She took the corner for the second goal, and the third goal again she took three of our defenders and got a clean shot. So it was a combination of us being tired and their best player taking over the game.”
Although the Lady Highlanders took the loss, Sanger was happy with the majority of his girls’ defense. The Lady Highlanders started Freshman Jessica Garcia and Sophomore Rebecca Hernandez. “(They’ve) shown that they’re the best two center backs that we have,” Sanger said. “They are starting to get more time together and they’re starting to get more comfortable together and that’s something we’ve been missing all season.”
Sanger has begun to develop a core of young contributors lead by their first year starting keeper Phinney.
“Katelyn did the best she could, none of the goals were her fault, we kind of left her hung out to dry a few times … she’s becoming a future leader,” Sanger said.
The Lady Highlanders welcome Troy next Thursday where they will look to even a score. The Lady Warriors dropped La Habra 5-0 earlier this season.
“We need to continue to be defensively disciplined,” Sanger said, “But the biggest thing we need to do is we need to be a little bit more free to attack.”