Santa Clarita Christian's Viviana Soler (1) takes a shot on goal against St. Monica Academy defender Genevieve Pulido (10) in the first half at College of the Canyons on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Injuries hamper SCCS girls soccer against St. Monica Academy

Amid heavy rainfall on Tuesday, the SCCS girls soccer team came out of its game against The Palmdale Aerospace Academy slightly banged up.

So when the Cardinals showed up to College of the Canyons on Thursday to face St. Monica Academy, they did so short-handed, falling 4-2.

Despite the result, SCCS head coach Casey Phillips was pleased with the effort and grit his team played with throughout the contest.

“These ladies have played their hearts out. They played in a pouring rain game on Tuesday and we came out of that game worse for wear, not just scoreline-wise but injuries-wise,” he said. “Their heart and determination to come out here and battle has been great, so I’m super proud of them.”

With injuries piling up, including losing leading goal-scorer Sydney Boswell possibly for the season to a quad strain, Phillips was forced to shift some pieces around and move some players into new roles.

That included moving freshman Viviana Soler, who has been playing as an attacking wing for most of the season, up top to a more featured forward role.

The move paid off, as Soler scored both goals for the Cardinals.

Santa Clarita Christian’s Viviana Soler (1) drives past St. Monica Academy defender Madelyn Tittmann (8) in the first half at College of the Canyons on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

“I am looking to her to be that rock and be that offensive push, and going forward she’s going to have to have a couple of special moments and special opportunities and step into that a little bit,” Phillips said of Soler. “She’s just a freshman. In a position like that when she’s been called upon to do something different all season long and changing gears and going into a different role is hard.

“I think I’m still trying to find that next level goal-scorer, someone who can come in and put some goals in the back of the net. I think Viv is going to be a huge part of that puzzle trying to fit that together.”

Soler’s first goal came in the 16th minute, moments after St. Monica Academy’s Caterina Marji scored her first of four goals on the afternoon.

Junior Alyssa Hopewell found Soler with a through pass and the freshman used her speed to get ahead of the Crusaders’ defense, blasting the ball into the back of the net.

“We slow it down, we connect and find the open spaces and we get that goal. My chemistry with her is really good,” Soler said about playing alongside Hopewell. “We do combination plays which is good to get around the players, so I think it’s good with her.”

Heading out of halftime tied 1-1, Phillips made another change, putting starting center back Ashley Rens in as goalkeeper.

Rens, who had been marking Marji the entire first half, was also a little hobbled. The position change allowed her to stay involved in the game without her having to run as much and risk aggravating an injury.

Rens made some tremendous saves as St. Monica Academy fired a dozen shots on goal in the second half, but Marji was able to score three more times to give the Crusaders a 4-1 advantage.

“We have a lot of injuries that we’re trying to keep in check so to make sure that these girls can continue to play on, we kind of split the difference there. We have her athleticism in goal and not have her running as much,” Phillips said about switching Rens to goalkeeper. “I think (Marji) is incredibly talented and she was finding space even against girls that were marking her very well.

“We were not necessarily taking our foot off the gas pedal but just trying to maintain bodies. Get people off the field for certain amounts of time and manage minutes. I think that kind of hurt us a little.”

Santa Clarita Christian’s Siloam Brenner (13) takes a pass near the St. Monica Academy goal. SCCS head coach Casey Phillips said he will look to Brenner to take on a more offensive role with the team dealing with injuries. Dan Watson/The Signal

With the Cardinals trailing, the offense applied pressure and kept pursuing the ball near the Crusaders’ goal.

In the 73rd minute, Soler stole the ball from a St. Monica Academy defender and used her left foot to strike a ball over the opposing goalkeeper.

Soler, who is right-footed, knew there was no time to waste, so she struck a well-placed lob shot with her opposite foot.

“It’s kind of hard but once you get that chance you have to go for it,” Soler said. “You shouldn’t back down from the goal.”

While there are still three league games left on the docket, Thursday night’s contest marked the last home game for seniors Samantha Toth and Rens.

Before the game, Phillips honored his seniors by presenting them with gifts and said a few words about how important they are to the SCCS girls soccer program.

After the game, he reflected on how special it’s been to coach the senior duo.

“She’s played lights out all season long. Whatever we’ve asked her to do, she’s done it to the best of her ability and usually been outstanding in whatever it is,” he said about Rens. “Sam is a lockdown defender and she just works her butt off. Whatever I’ve asked her to do whether it be to play the left side of defense, right side of the defense, stopper, whatever I’ve asked her to do she’s done it.

“They are really important to our team and the heartbeat of our team, what we want to be is hard workers. We want to show that attitude of I’m going to do whatever I can for my team for them to succeed, even if it doesn’t give me glory. I think they both represented that well this season.”

With the loss, the Cardinals move to 5-6-3 overall and 3-3-1 in league.

SCCS will look to get back into the win column on Tuesday, taking on rival Trinity Classical Academy in a Heritage League contest at Tesoro Sports Park.

Game time is scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

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