The Hart girls soccer team continued its quest for an undefeated league season, defeating West Ranch 3-1 at home on Senior Night.
The first half was a bit sloppy for the Indians as they struggled to maintain possession and win balls, with the Wildcats doing their best to control the midfield.
West Ranch had a few opportunities to score in the first half as senior Morgan Gale fired a shot over the crossbar in the 29th minute after breaking through Hart’s defense. Sophomore Jenna Catalano was able to make a run down the right sideline but Hart junior outside back Julia Melchiorre put a stop to the run.
In the 33rd minute, Hart senior Ali Thompson was able to break through West Ranch’s defense and got fouled in the box, earning a penalty kick for the Indians.
Junior Alyssa Irwin stepped up and netted the goal, giving Hart a 1-0 lead at halftime.
“I think we did a good job of compartmentalizing it and moving on. It’s a bummer when you work so hard for 33 minutes and that happens. That was kind of deflating,” West Ranch head coach Jared White said of the PK. “I think they responded really well and that’s what we’ve been challenging. I thought we responded very well after halftime, we just didn’t have the legs to keep up with Hart today.”
West Ranch didn’t take long to answer in the second half as sophomore forward Lizeth Gutierrez used her strength to battle through Hart’s defense. She found junior Amanda Baumgartner squared up center to the box, who fired a strike that had a perfect bend, sailing into the top left corner of the net.
“As soon as it left her foot I knew it was in. There’s not a keeper in this league and maybe in Southern California that is making that save. It was a perfect hit,” White said. “It showed we can score against really organized teams and put pressure on great teams.”
With the game tied 1-1 in the 43rd minute, Hart came out aggressive and pushed its players forward, trying to find an opportunity to regain the lead.
In the 60th minute, Irwin used her speed to blow past West Ranch’s defense down the right sideline, receiving a pass from junior midfielder Stefani Woll. West Ranch keeper Hannah Everitt came out to meet her, but Irwin fired a bullet past her that hit the far left post, clanking off the post and in.
Irwin’s second goal was reminiscent of the first time the two teams met earlier in the season, as she also used her speed to get past the Wildcats’ defense in the first meeting to score twice.
“Alyssa does that very well, she scored a few goals already this season that way. To be fair, it’s hard to prevent once that center mid, the combo happens with Stefani, turn and play. Even the defenders dropping, if the angle is not perfect the ball is still going to go through,” Hart head coach Guilherme Mitrovitch said. “I think it shows that the girls believe our game plan and believe in what we’re preaching at the end of the day. Credit goes to them, those girls are exceptional.”
“It definitely was a relief because it was coming close and West Ranch is a good team,” senior center back Kendall De La Vega said about Irwin’s second goal. “I give them props to both Eric (White) and Jared. They have a great team and gave us a run for our money both games this year. To be able to breathe a little bit and the emotions starting to build up with senior night, it was a good way to end the game with a bang.”
De La Vega, along with Melchiorre, junior Jessica Deegan, sophomore Jensen Shrout and senior keeper Kaycie Priske comprise a starting defense that has only conceded four goals in league all season.
Woll scored the final goal for the Indians as Melchiorre crossed the ball into the box, finding Woll’s feet. Everitt blocked the first shot, but Woll was there for the rebound and finished the second time around.
“I try as an outside back to be super supportive during the game and even off the field. I make sure that everything I do is for the whole of the team,” Melchiorre said. “I try to pass to feet, I look for my friends to go in the box because I know if I hit it far post at least it will give them a rebound shot.”
Now, Hart will look to close out its season with an undefeated record, taking on Saugus on the road on Thursday.
The Cents spoiled the Indians’ chance at a 10-0 record last year, tying them in the final game of the regular season.
“10-0 is definitely the biggest goal we’ve had this year and for the seniors, we want to win 10-0 for a little something different and end it in a bang,” Melchiorre said.
West Ranch will face Golden Valley in its final game of the season in a home contest.
Saugus 2, Canyon 1
The Centurions clinched a playoff berth with their victory on Tuesday.
Shaina Berdin scored the first goal for Saugus and Brooke Chambers scored the game-winner in the closing minutes after Canyon was able to tie the game late.
Saugus will play Hart at home on Thursday to close out the season and Canyon will face Valencia at home.
Valencia 5, Golden Valley 1
The Vikings moved to 3-5-1 in league with their road win on Tuesday.
Isabelle Goralsky, Jackie Victorio (2) Jessica Raffi and Taryn Cunningham were the goal-scorers for Valencia.
Valencia will face off against Canyon and Golden Valley will conclude its season against West Ranch.