Heralds senior forwards play big part in strong season finale
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
Whittier Christian boys’ soccer senior forwards Malik Marshall and Matt Rada certainly ended their brief stints with the Heralds’ soccer program with a bang.
Both forwards scored twice for the Heralds, leading to a 4-2 win over Village Christian on Senior Day and the team’s season finale, Thursday afternoon at home.
“We just wanted to have fun, with it being Senior Day, this was all for them,” said Matt Rojas, Whittier Christian head coach. “I didn’t need to say much, gameplan-wise, they just went out and had fun.”
Marshall, who missed the preseason because of a CIF transfer rule, has enjoyed playing the Crusaders this season, scoring four total goals in two games against Village Christian.
Rada, who just completed his first and only season in the Whittier Christian soccer program, was one of Whittier Christian’s most effective forwards and proved it Thursday, scoring two goals thanks to good positioning.
Overall, it was a good send off for Whittier Christian’s nine total seniors as the Heralds controlled and pressured for the majority of the afternoon.
“I think they got really comfortable, whether it was scoring goals or capitalizing on opportunities,” Rojas said. “They figured out the ins and outs of how to get those opportunities.”
However, the day wasn’t without a mistake or two. The Heralds gifted Village Christian midway through the second half with an own goal in the 60th minute.
Four minutes later, Village Christian turned up the pressure as defender Troy Klien knocked a header past Chase Gray, who was in net for the Heralds in the second half.
Once leading 3-0, the Heralds now had to fight off a potential rally by the Crusaders.
“They gave us a scare, but I had faith that the boys would get it going again,” Rojas said.
Marshall ended the threat in the 77th minute by tapping in a rebound goal after a shot by forward Dylan Murphy bounced off the near-side post.
Marshall put the Heralds on the board in the 24th minute by creating space and firing a shot to the right side past Village Christian keeper Aaron Lopez.
Two minutes into the second half, Whittier Christian’s Aaron Sanchez dumped a ball into the box, but Lopez failed to secure it. Rada was there to push the ball into net for a 2-0 lead.
Rada struck again in the 53rd minute with a shot from the right side that bounced off Lopez’ hands and into the near-side.
“I thought we should have had a few more scores, if we had started the game the same way we ended it, it would have been a different story,” Rojas said.
Despite allowing four goals, Lopez stopped plenty of other chances by the Heralds with some spectacular close-range saves.
The Heralds finished their season with a fourth place finish in the Olympic League. In Rojas’ first year, the team made progress throughout, despite only earning three wins.
“From the beginning, the main thing was being disciplined, I knew I had a good group of guys, it was just being patient and waiting for our opportunities,” Rojas said. “As the season went on, I realized that I needed to be a little more patient, a turnaround doesn’t happen overnight. I think we made a lot of progress, it didn’t quite show in the results, but we learned a lot as a team and we can take a lot of that into next season.”