The College of the Canyons women’s soccer team hosted the Western State Conference, South Division’s first-place team Citrus College on Tuesday.
Avenging a loss in the first meeting between the two programs, the Cougars played long, hard, team soccer to hand the Owls their second conference loss of the season and the second loss in the last three games with a 2-1 win.
“When we are focused we are a really good team and we keep proving that,” said Canyons head coach Justin Lundin. “Unfortunately, we also keep proving that when we show up not focused we can play not so well. Today we were focused, we came out and the girls played really good and really hard for the full 90 minutes.”
The Cougars (11-5-4 overall, 8-2-3 in WSC, South) pressured the Owls early, resulting in a scoring chance 10 minutes into the game when a cross flew into the Owls box and Emily Perez got a foot on it, but her shot hit the crossbar and bounced back into play.
Citrus midfielders Isabela DeLeon and Amethyst Trang used their creativity and inherent connection to find each other in tight spaces, but time and time again the Cougars’ backline stopped them dead in their tracks.
Canyons defenders Celia Franco, Gracell Magnaye, Angelina Maldonado, Aileen Lopez and Briana De Santiago formed an almost impenetrable backline and held the Owls scoreless in the first half.
Finding an opening in the 23rd minute of play, Canyons midfielder Jennifer Roney stole an errant Owls pass at midfield and Lesly Cabrera made a run down the sideline into the attacking third.
Cabrera rushed towards the goal as Roney made the pass, forcing the Citrus goalkeeper to come rushing out of the net. Cabrera took a slight touch and Araceli Castaneda came swooping in for the wide-open goal to give the Cougars a 1-0 advantage.
A little over 12 minutes later, Cabrera made her presence felt again as she found Andrea Marrufo for the game’s second goal of the game. Off an Owls turnover, Cabrera controlled the ball down the right flank and spotted Marrufo at the top of the 18-yard box and made the pass.
Fading to her left, Marrufo unleashed a left-footer than went hurling into the top left corner to give the home team a 2-0 advantage heading into halftime.
“I just feel like we came out strong and I had a strong mentality to bring us back,” Cabrera said. “We knew the first game we played them was a little tough so I felt that we came in with a lot of confidence and that helped me.”
At the turn, Canyons forward Nicolle Bulnes made her presence felt just seven minutes into the half as she made a run down the middle of the pitch missing the ball by a toenail for what would have been Canyons’ third goal.
That wasn’t the case for Citrus (14-6, 11-2) in the 75th minute of play. Making a critical mistake, Magnaye tried to make a back pass to Franco in the Cougars’ defensive third, but an Owls player stole the ball and put a shot on goal that was blocked, resulting in a Citrus corner kick.
Off the corner kick, the Owls made good on a rare mistake by the Canyons defensive line to throw out the shutout win.
“Defensively, we stayed strong and organized,” Lundin said. “Towards the end, we got a little too comfortable in the build-out and that’s where we got ourselves in trouble. We were fine and had the game in control, no problem. I think the biggest thing is to stay focused all the way through to the end. We were strong, winning balls, challenging everything and they are really coming together as the season is coming along.”
Holding stout for the final 15 minutes of play, the Cougars escaped with a statement win solidifying their position in the WSC, South standings in third place.
“I think we are dangerous, moving into playoffs,” Lundin said. “We are hitting our stride at the right time, we had a slow start to the season, we’ve had a couple of lulls through the middle part of the season, but when the game is big, they are playing big.
“That’s dangerous when you get into the playoffs. It doesn’t matter what seed we enter the playoffs. The way we are playing right now, I feel comfortable going in and playing anybody.”
Canyons host their final regular-season game of the year at 5:30 p.m on Friday against Glendale.