Second-half goal lifts Hart girls soccer over El Dorado

Hart junior Alyssa Irwin heads the ball past El Dorado's goalkeeper for the game-winning goal in a playoff matchup with El Dorado High School at Hart High School on Wednesday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal
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When Alyssa Irwin misses a shot, she doesn’t get upset.

When she sent a cross to the center of the 18-yard box with no one to receive it against El Dorado on Wednesday, she didn’t flinch.

When she sent a shot wide right from the top left corner of the box, she didn’t blink. When she launched a shot five minutes later from a similar spot that hit the crossbar, still no reaction.

“I keep telling myself if I got one chance, I can get another one,” Irwin said. I’ve just got to keep shooting because if they’re so close, I’ll have the ability to score and I knew that I could score on them because of the chances that I got before.”

Irwin’s persistence and level-headedness paid off in the 69th minute as she scored the only goal in a 1-0 win in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

Kendall De La Vega lined up for a free kick and sent it high towards the crossbar. Irwin jumped up and redirected the shot with a header and sent the ball just beneath the bar and into the top of the netting.

“Kendall’s really good at kicking them, so I was like, this is going to be it,” Irwin said. “And then when I saw it in the air, I was like, this is perfect, I just went to head it and I was so glad. I saw it hit the back of the net and it was such a great feeling.”

The shots kept coming for the Indians in the second half, but the same couldn’t be said for the first half. After pressuring the Golden Hawks in the first 10 minutes of play, Hart struggled to connect passes and execute on set pieces.

El Dorado’s formation featured four midfielders, which turned the pressure on the Indians and caused the team to crack, but not break.

“We’ve got to give credit to them,” said Hart coach Guilherme Mitrovitch. “I think they did a good job putting us under pressure, disrupting our natural game, so I feel like they probably had a good scout on us and they did a good job disrupting us and we never really got a pass that sometimes we do like to get.”

Goalkeeper Kaycie Priske helped keep the Indians in the game throughout the half, making a crucial save on a Golden Hawk corner in the 10th minute and a diving save in the 33rd minute.

Hart senior Caitlin Pieper fields a ball in a playoff matchup with El Dorado High School at Hart High School on Wednesday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

“I cannot count the times she’s saved our butts,” Irwin said of Priske. “Especially two humongous ones in this game that I was like shocked she even saved. Extremely important because we could’ve lost 2-1 but instead we won 1-0 because she’s solid in the back and it takes a hell of a good shot to beat Kaycie.”

MORE: Saugus girls soccer falls short in playoff battle against Sunny Hills

Priske is in her second season as starting keeper for the Indians and said that last year’s experience has paid off immensely this season.

She was able to direct the defense in the first half, helping them to limit Hannah Alfaro, who was one of El Dorado’s most dynamic players.

“She was just cutting through us in the first half, so we were kind of like playing more man marked,” Priske said. “So not giving her shots, stepping to her, rather than just letting her dribble freely.”

Hart will play Los Alamitos in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 1 tournament on Friday at Los Alamitos.

Los Alamitos, which won the 2018 Aliso Cup in December plays in a similar shape to El Dorado, which allows the Indians to continue the style of play they used against the Golden Hawks.

Priske emphasized team dynamic as a key to a long run in the playoffs.

“We were practicing hard, getting a lot of sleep, team dinners, like the bonding and all that stuff, that was definitely a big part of it, too,” she said of Wednesday’s win. “We just needed to play as a unit, not 11 individuals on the field. Play as a team. That’s when we play our best for sure.”

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