Hart girls soccer keeps pace with high-ranked Harvard-Westlake

Junior forward Sarah Melvin tries to control the ball against a Harvard-Westlake defender. Courtesy of Stephanie Shrout
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In the first half of the Aliso Cup girls soccer match between Hart and Harvard-Westlake on Thursday afternoon, the Indians weren’t able to win as many of the 50-50 balls as the Wolverines.

Hart head coach Guilherme Mitrovitch spoke to his players at halftime, and although he didn’t necessarily need to make any major adjustments, he told his players to be more aggressive.

“We were hesitating, so we talked a little bit about that,” Mitrovitch said. “We were winning more second balls and winning more 50-50’s and pressing them a little better in the second half.”

Hart (2-1-1) was clearly the aggressor in the second half, firing double the amount of shots it had in the first half and controlling the ball more.

Though the Indians had a few opportunities to net a goal, they couldn’t get one past the Wolverines goalkeeper, leading to a 0-0 tie with Harvard-Westlake (5-0-2), the No. 5 ranked team in Division 1 according to the latest CIF-Southern Section polls.

“We didn’t play as good as I wanted offensively, but defensively we were really good to shut down a team like this,” said Mitrovitch.

Senior goalkeeper Kaycie Priske was particularly impressive, stopping a multitude of shots on goal.

Toward the end of the game with the Wolverines pressing, Priske made two huge saves to keep the game even. She also had a tremendous stop near the end of the first half.

Her ability to contest every shot forced the Wolverines to try and score by finding angles in the top corners of the goal. Though a couple of shots ricocheted off the crossbar, Priske kept the clean sheet intact.

“She was huge last game too,” Mitrovitch said of his goalie. “You can tell at the end of the game she saved us. She’s been huge for us. She’s one of our leaders. She talks a lot, is very vocal in the back keeping the defenders calm. That goes a long way.”

Though the Indians had four shots on goal in the first half, they had better scoring opportunities in the second half.

Senior Caitlin Pieper leaps over Harvard-Westlake’s goalkepper after attempting a shot. Courtesy of Stephanie Shrout

One play, in particular, was their best chance. A little past the midway point in the second half, the Indians blasted a shot off a corner kick that was stopped by the Wolverines goalkeeper. They fired once more on the rebound, but the goalkeeper deflected it again.

Despite the misses, Mitrovitch kept encouraging his players from the sideline. He told them to stay aggressive.

“A strong forward or midfielder that gets in front of the goal, mistakes are going to happen,” Mitrovitch said. “You have to stay composed when you miss. They can be hard on themselves, but I was trying to encourage them to get the next one. I think they had the right mindset. We definitely could have buried one or two that we missed.”

After defeating South Hills 4-2 on Monday and with the tie on Thursday, Hart won Group H in pool play of the Aliso Cup and will face the winner of Group G, undefeated Los Alamitos, on Saturday.

The game is scheduled to begin at 11 p.m. at the Laguna Niguel Skate and Soccer Park in Laguna Niguel.

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