Valencia girls soccer utilizes strong first half to defeat Saugus

Valencia's Isabelle Goralsky (19) heads the ball away from Saugus defender Alana Berens (8) at Saugus High School on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Valencia girls soccer team played inspired in the first half of its game against Saugus on Friday afternoon.

The Vikings controlled possession, were able to fire multiple shots on goal and limited the Centurions to only one shot in the first half on their way to a 1-0 road victory.

The Vikings played so well in the first half that head coach Kevin Goralsky said it was the best he’s seen his team play all season.

“It’s one of those games where you don’t want halftime to come. I thought we dominated them in the first half,” Goralsky said. “The second half was probably more even-strengthened. I think we lost a little bit of steam. I’m just excited for the girls. It’s been a tough season and today, the first half was just phenomenal. Probably the best I’ve seen them play all year.”

With the Vikings applying pressure early and often, they were able to fire several shots on goal, but Saugus goalkeeper Kayla Medof made some crucial saves.

Valencia broke through in the 13th minute, as Stephanie Alba received a pass from the midfield and streaked out wide down the right sideline, crossing the ball into the box.

Amber-Jade Hallare was able to get a touch on the ball and it deflected to senior forward Jessica Raffi, who struck it with her left foot past Medof for the game’s lone goal.

“I saw that we had our width on them today and I thought we did that great in the first half,” Goralsky said. “Second half we kind of lost that a little bit, that’s why I think it was a little more even, but we put the ball wide, got the cross and some lucky bounces. Finally got a little bit of luck our way.”

“It’s really important because you never know where the ball is going to come out so it’s always good to keep the pressure up to make sure you get that ball wherever it goes,” Raffi said about being ready for deflections while attacking the goal.

Saugus came out more aggressive after intermission, attacking the goal throughout the second half and creating several scoring opportunities.

Less than a minute into the second half, Saugus forward Brooke Chambers struck a solid shot toward goal, but Valencia goalkeeper Noelle Amey made a clutch stop. The ball deflected to Aubrey Finicle who took a shot, but once again Amey came up with the save.

Camryn Arnott started the game in goal for Valencia, but Goralsky subbed Amey in at halftime. Having two starting-caliber goalkeepers is a luxury most teams don’t have.

“I’m able to play both of them half a game,” Goralsky said. “They are both just so strong and as you saw today they can both bring it.”

The Centurions were able to build more of a rhythm in the latter stages of the game, something they struggled with in the first half.

Saugus kept the pressure on, firing several shots and earning one last opportunity to net a goal as junior Shaina Berdin stepped up to take a free kick right outside of Valencia’s box.

Berdin’s shot sailed just over the crossbar, sealing the win for Valencia.

“We had opportunities in the second half and just couldn’t convert. Multiple chances,” Saugus head coach Kevin Miner said. “Even the free kick towards the end just barely goes over. Shaina has been great all year with those kind of shots. Just a few inches and it goes in, but credit to Valencia. They knew they had to get a win today to stay in the race. They were the aggressor early and put us on our heels.”

With the win Valencia remains in contention in the Foothill League, moving to 8-5-3 overall and 2-3-1 in league. The Vikings will face Hart on Tuesday, who defeated Valencia 5-0 in the first meeting between the teams.

“Hopefully we’ll just build on this. The excitement of beating a team that’s second in league today, we’re excited,” Goralsky said. “We just got to keep it going. Keep pushing, keep pushing and not settle.”

Saugus suffered only its third loss of the season and drops to 12-3-5 overall and 3-2-1 in league. The Cents will face West Ranch on the road on Tuesday, who they defeated earlier in the season 2-1.

“The girls tried hard and they’re disappointed. We’ll get back to work on Monday and have another tough one on Tuesday. West Ranch is going to be tough,” Miner said. “I know they weren’t happy that we got them in the last six minutes in that first game. They’ll be ready for us and we have to match their intensity and play our game.”

Saugus and Valencia tied 2-2 when the teams faced off in the first league game of the season back in mid-December.

Hart 9, Golden Valley 0

Hart girls soccer had a repeat performance from earlier in the season on Friday night, defeating Golden Valley by nine goals for the second time this season.

The Indians are no 13-3-1 overall and 6-0 in league, as they inch closer to a sixth consecutive Foothill League title.

The Grizzlies remain winless in league.

West Ranch 1, Canyon 0

The Wildcats moved into second place in the Foothill League with their road win on Friday against the Cowboys. West Ranch is now 8-2-2 overall and 4-2 in league.

Canyon drops to 5-8-3 overall and 2-4 in league.

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