Having already clinched the Foothill League title for the sixth consecutive season, the Hart girls soccer team had one thing on its mind entering Thursday’s contest against Saugus: 10-0.
The Indians hadn’t had a perfect league season since 1997, way before any of the current players were born.
With a hard-fought 2-1 road victory over Saugus, the 2018-19 Hart squad inscribed its name in program history.
“It’s really cool because we haven’t done it since ‘97. I got a little emotional, I hugged my best friend,” senior midfielder Caitlin “Patty” Pieper said. “We’ve never gone 10-0 in the four years I’ve been here, so it’s just super cool.”
“I’m very proud and excited for the girls because this kind of run doesn’t happen too often. Going 10-0, but also a six-peat in league,” Hart head coach Guilherme Mitrovitch said. “We’ve been waiting for this chance for a whole year, to be 9-0 and have a chance to play them and finish 10-0. They gave us two battles both times we played them so credit to coach (Kevin) Miner and Saugus.”
The Indians and Centurions battled to a scoreless first half, with both teams having solid opportunities at goal.
Saugus senior midfielder Alana Berens fired a shot that sailed just over the crossbar in the 6th minute. A few minutes later, Hart senior Elizabeth MacArthur fired a shot that just missed, clanking off the far right post and out.
As halftime was approaching, Hart senior Ali Thompson made a run and unleashed a booming strike, but Saugus senior keeper Kayla Medof was able to come up with the save.
The Indians finally broke through in the 47th minute, when junior outside back Julia Melchiorre used her strength to throw the ball in from the left sideline all the way into Saugus’ box. After a deflection, the ball found the feet of junior Alyssa Irwin, who rifled it into the back of the net.
Less than two minutes later, Hart earned a corner kick which junior midfielder Stefani Woll took. She found Irwin at the near post, who was able to leap off the ground and connect with a powerful header at the apex of the cross, smashing it into the net.
It was the second game in a row in which Irwin scored twice and it was her 12th goal in 10 league games.
“I like to be very aggressive, I go to the ball very hard. My main goal is to score goals or to have the best opportunity for our team to score goals, that’s my main objective,” Irwin said. “That’s my favorite thing to do because it’s such a good feeling.”
“She’s having a brilliant season, so many important goals. She’s very aggressive on those type of set pieces. She was very quick to react to turn and shoot and her second one, that’s one of her specialties,” Mitrovitch said of Irwin. “She’s really special. Her timing and her ability to head the ball properly is really off the charts.”
Throughout the season, Hart’s midfielders have excelled at controlling the ball and finding the forwards with precise passing.
Thursday was no different, as Woll, Pieper, MacArthur and the rest of Hart’s midfield did their part in maintaining possession and finding their teammates for scoring opportunities.
“When I make a run they know exactly what I’m thinking. They play it exactly where I want to go. It’s so important, these midfielders are so amazing and make my job so much easier,” Irwin said. “All I have to do is finish because they play it perfect.”
Irwin wasn’t finished just yet, as she kept on attacking, finding her way into the box with another great opportunity.
However, she was fouled, and Hart was awarded a penalty kick. Junior center back Jessica Deegan took the penalty kick, but Medof came up with another huge stop for Saugus.
After blocking the PK, the Centurions gained momentum and pushed forward aggressively. In the 63rd minute, senior forward Brooke Chambers powered her way through multiple Hart defenders and managed to drill a shot on goal.
Senior Aubrey Finicle stood in front of the net to finish the play, powering the ball past Priske, bringing the score to 2-1.
Miner was pleased with the effort he saw out of his team, not only on Thursday, but all season long.
He was particularly proud of his team’s never-give-up mentality, and said he was blessed to have senior leadership that helped shoulder the load in his first season as the varsity head coach.
“I’m real proud of all the seniors, they got us to this point. Six seniors that start, they rarely come off the field and they battled all year long and got us to the playoffs,” Miner said. “It’s a team effort. I’m just super proud of the team of what we’ve accomplished this year. We’re battle-tested and we’re going to try and make a deep run in the playoffs.”
Finishing in third place in the Foothill League with a 5-3-2 league record, the Cents will be heading to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
“This team has put the Saugus soccer program back on the map. We hadn’t made the playoffs in a long time,” Miner said. “People I think didn’t fear us when they stepped onto the field and now that’s different. They know when they step onto the field with us it’s going to be a battle and they are going to have to play a full 80 minutes in order to beat us.”
Now, both Hart and Saugus will start preparations for the CIF-Southern Section playoffs that begin next week.
The Indians are going to take some time to enjoy their latest feat, but they know there is more work to be done.
“We’re going to get right back to work at practice we got to prepare even more for the playoffs,” Irwin said. “So we just got to keep working hard and keep going and I think we can go far in CIF.”
West Ranch 2, Golden Valley 0
The Wildcats clinched second place in the Foothill League with their win on Thursday, finishing with a 6-3-1 league record.
Lizeth Gutierrez and Jenna Catalano were the goal-scorers for West Ranch.
Valencia 1, Canyon 1
The Vikings finished the season in fourth place with a 3-5-2 league record. Canyon finished in fifth place with a league record of 3-6-1.