Canyon girls soccer utilizes aggressive play to defeat Golden Valley

Dan Watson/The Signal
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The Canyon girls soccer team came out aggressive on Tuesday night against Golden Valley, pushing the tempo and controlling possession for most of the game to win 4-0.

The Cowboys applied pressure early, firing several shots at Golden Valley sophomore goalkeeper Kella Okereke.

Okereke was able to make some big stops and came out of the goal several times to try and slow down Canyon’s offensive onslaught.

Canyon broke through in the 18th minute as junior Jaqueline Morrison received a through ball from sophomore captain Sierra McCormick. Morrison used her speed to break through Golden Valley’s defense and struck a powerful shot past Okereke to notch Canyon’s first goal.

Golden Valley tried to answer, as senior captain Emily Perez took several close shots on goal, and in the 25th minute blasted a shot way outside the box that seemed like it had a chance to go in.

However, Canyon goalkeeper Aubrey McKessy made a great save, and continued to come up with big stops for the entire contest.

“Aubrey in the back, she’s such a talented player. She can make saves that you don’t expect at this level,” Canyon head coach Derek Rusk said. “She keeps us in a lot of games and she’s got a great head on her shoulders.”

As halftime neared, the Cowboys earned a corner kick, which found the left foot of sophomore Makenna Evans. She delivered a high-arcing shot that hit Okereke’s fingertips and sailed into the net.

Canyon continued its aggressive play in the second half, as junior Analise Rappe intercepted a pass from Okereke in the 51st minute. Rappe charged toward the goal and got fouled in the box, resulting in a penalty kick for Canyon.

Senior captain Shelby Cooper stepped up to take the penalty kick and found the left corner of the net to put Canyon up 3-0.

In the 62nd minute, junior Giselle Sayan found a streaking Cooper with a perfect through ball, and Cooper once again found the back of the net, giving the Cowboys a 4-0 advantage.

“She’s that consistent defender in the back that you know you can count on. She’s also a threat pushing forward,” Rusk said about Cooper. “She was able to put two in today and that’s great for her, we are really proud of her.”

McCormick seemed to be all over the field for Canyon, finding her teammates with precise passing and also getting back on defense when necessary.

As a sophomore, McCormick is one of the youngest captains in the Foothill League, a role she relishes.

“It’s such a big opportunity for Coach Rusk to put me as captain and I feel like all the other players support me. I just love it. I love the captain role on this team,” she said. “We work together, we have this team chemistry. The secret is we just love each other. I can depend on them on any ball I give to them and I can put all my trust in them.”

“Sierra is the engine of our offense. She’s able to create a lot of opportunities up top,” Rusk added. “She controls the tempo of the game and is just great on the ball.”

Despite the result, Golden Valley head coach Michela James was pleased with her team’s effort.

It’s been a challenging year for the Grizzlies, but they showed grit and fight, never giving up even when trailing.

“Obviously Golden Valley has had its ups and downs throughout the years, but one thing has always been consistent, the girls’ mentality to always want to win and always challenge every single ball and play to the final minute of every single game,” James said. “That was shown here today and the previous games as well.”

James said her team is going to focus on its defensive shape in practice as Golden Valley gears up to play Saugus on Thursday.

Canyon will have a tough matchup with Hart on Thursday, which hasn’t lost a league game yet this season.

McCormick said her team will be ready for the challenge.

“We’ve been striving for the best every day, we never give up,” she said. “I really feel like we have a big game ahead of us and we’re going to practice even more and harder tomorrow.”

Hart 3, Valencia 1

The Indians maintained its perfect league record, defeating Valencia for the second time this season.

Hart will play Canyon on Thursday and Valencia will face West Ranch.

West Ranch 0, Saugus 0

With Tuesday night’s tie, the Wildcats maintained their position in second place in the Foothill League with a 4-2-1 league record. The Centurions are still in the hunt with a 3-2-2 league record.

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