The Canyon girls soccer team fought until the final whistle against Royal of Simi Valley on Wednesday at Canyon High School, but the Highlanders were able to win the game 3-2.
“We’re all very good players, but we need to work on playing as a team rather than individual soccer,” said senior Jacqueline Morrison. “I think we’re going to be a great team, we just need to get all of the working parts working together.”
Royal’s Alyssa Acuna scored the first goal of the game on a shot from the top of the six-yard box in the eighth minute.
Ten minutes later, the Cowboys were able to even the score. Morrison swooped in from the right flank just in time to receive a pass from a teammate and tap in a goal.
“It all happened really fast,” Morrison said. “My teammates did most of the work. They got me the ball, I just needed composure to finish it.”
Canyon’s Emily Guluzza got her team another scoring chance on a penalty kick in the 24th minute, but the ball landed in the chest of the Highlanders’ keeper.
The Cowboys defense faced a lot of pressure in the first half, but senior goalkeeper Aubrey McKessy was able to work with the young defensive corps as Canyon allowed one goal in the rest of the half.
McKessy made a reaching save on a corner kick, then had a save on a penalty kick five minutes later. Royal was able to break through for a goal with 5:30 left in regulation, but McKessy made two more saves in stoppage time.
“I can always trust her with getting those balls that we can’t get,” Brooke McCormick, a defender, said of McKessy. “So it’s really nice to have someone back there that you trust in the net.”
There are three freshmen on Canyon’s roster and all three started today. Two of them are on defense, including McCormick, who is also a captain.
“She works well under pressure and she leads the team,” said first-year head coach Milan Cabrera of McCormick. “I think that’s a big thing when you come in as a freshman with the nerves and to step up and play the way she’s done and performed the way she has, that’s going to be a huge asset for the next four years.”
Royal scored its final goal nine minutes into the second half. Grace Nilson placed a penalty kick in the top left corner of the net and the ball bounced in off the post.
Canyon changed its formation at the half to put three players in the attacking third and generate some momentum.
“We wanted to start controlling the center of the field more than we were and connecting more passes, looking for the through balls,” Morrison said.
The Cowboys were able to generate one last goal in the 60th minute on a set piece. Annabell Williamson took the corner kick and sent the ball across to the front of the net, where freshman Hayden Wade was waiting to head the ball in.
Canyon continues its season on Saturday at 8 a.m. at Tesoro of Rancho Santa Margarita.