Catalina Norris | La Habra Journal

Posted on 17 January 2014 by La Habra Journal

Story and photos by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

Defensive breakdowns in the second half led to a 2-0 loss for the La Habra Girls’ soccer team against Sunny Hills, Thursday afternoon at La Habra High.

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La Habra’s Catalina Norris battles to keep possession against Sunny Hills forward Maribell Morales in the first half of the Lady Highlanders’ 2-0 loss, Thursday afternoon at home.

The Lady Highlanders brought a tie into the first half thanks to the tremendous play from keeper Katelyn Phinney. However the Lancers’ consistent offensive pressure crushed the Highlanders hopes of a victory.

The Lancers scored their first goal on a questionable call from the refs.

The Lancers sent the ball deep in the zone from a corner kick, but after the ball was kicked out of the hands of keeper Phinney, Sunny Hills had an open shot on goal without the keeper in net.

The shot banged off the crossbar and fell directly down. Phinney hopped up quickly enough to secure the ball, but the referee gave Sunny Hills the goal.

The entire Sunny Hills team jumped and dashed towards their bench, but Head Coach Matt Sanger believes the referee may have missed the call.

“I don’t know if it went in or it didn’t, but neither did the ref,” Sanger said.

Phinney took the side of her coach, “It was on the line, but it has to go over the line to be a goal.” she said about the call. Phinney attributed the shot to the Lady Lancers breaking down the defense.

Phinney faced the most pressure she has seen all season but came up strong on most of the shots taken. Early on, Centerback Darriell Franklin allowed a lob to get behind her, leaving Phinney alone on a one-on-one.

“I saw her take a touch, and that’s when I decided to sprint,” Phinney said about a situation like that. “Just do it, don’t worry about the pain.”

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La Habra goalkeeper Katelyn Phinney makes one of many saves against Sunny Hills, Thursday afternoon.

Phinney rushed the forward diving to her right to make the diving save to preserve the scoreless tie.

Coach Sanger saw key performances from his bench early in the game. He put Catalina Norris into the game at leftback to see how she would perform.

Norris said of her approach, “(I) played tough and aggressive.”

He knew she had a lot of raw talent with her size and aggressiveness, but was pleased to see her succeed.

“Today she was willing to step in and challenge, willing to win the ball,” Sanger said. “She got up and won a lot of headers, she really had a complete game.”

After the first goal, the Highlanders needed to look to create more shots, but the Lancers’ offensive pressure forced the Highlanders to focus on their defense, limiting the opportunities they had to attack. Sanger moved centerback Franklin into the midfield to create more opportunities for the forwards but saw his plan backfire.

“I had to make a change that I shouldn’t have made because we were down,” he said.

The Lady Lancers were able to break down the defense again, creating an open shot from just outside the box.

With the loss, the Highlanders are even in Freeway League competition with a record of 7-5-2 (1-1). Coach Sanger was pleased with his girls performance because of the effort they put into the game. He recognized that many of his girls were intimidated by the Lady Lancers, but saw that fear disappear after their strong first half.

“It was a wake-up call for the girls,” he said, “[it shows] how well they can play, and how sharp they have to be.”

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