Hart girls soccer endured a frigid and windy battle and won 5-1 against Valencia at Valencia High School Thursday night.
“The first 20 minutes of the game I thought we were really great,” said Valencia head coach Kevin Goralsky. “Second half, I thought we played great. Looking forward on a positive note, I thought we played great in the second half.”
The Indians’ Alyssa Irwin continued to be red hot on the pitch. She completed her fourth hat trick in as many games, scoring all three goals in the first half of play.
The 5-1 scoreline didn’t reflect how the game appeared, however. The Vikings came out of the gate unintimidated by the returning Foothill League champions. For the first 15 minutes of play, Valencia was able to push Hart back on its heels.
“Something we take pride in is our counterattack, so we were really trying to use that,” said Hart senior Julia Melchiore. “We just made sure to stay calm because the worst thing you can do is freak out about it.”
In the 18th minute, the first goal hit the back of the net. Hart senior Stefani Woll took a close-range shot which ricocheted off of Valencia sophomore goalkeeper Grace Cashman. Irwin took advantage of the empty goal and tapped the ball into the net to put Hart up 1-0.
“It was huge,” said Hart head coach Guilherme Mitrovitch. “That first goal gave us a little bit more confidence.”
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The Indians put the pressure on Valencia from there. They went on to score two more goals in the next 16 minutes and a fourth as the half closed.
“I think they were playing four in the middle,” Irwin said. “It was a tough shape to get used to. We had to first figure it out, then we got our groove going. Once we started playing with one or two touches, I thought that’s when we started going good.”
One goal came from junior Sienna Frie in the 26th minute. Frie danced around her defender and raced toward the middle of the field. She planted and struck the ball with her left foot and sent a missile into the top left corner of the goal.
Irwin scored again in the 34th minute. She drilled a powerful shot towards Cashman again. It bounced off her body and into the net behind her for Irwin’s second and Hart’s third goal of the match.
Six minutes later, just seconds before the end of the first half, Irwin completed her hat trick. As she sprinted forward, a through-ball from Melchiore was sent to her from roughly 30 yards away. The ball broke the Vikings’ backline and Irwin hit the gas. She drove the ball into the back of the net, leaving the Valencia defenders in her dust.
“I was really happy,” Irwin said. “I thought the goalie was going to come out, and I was like ‘ah shoot, that was such a good ball from Julia, but she didn’t come out. I was just focusing on hitting it in the corner.”
At the half, Hart led 4-0, but the Vikings did not let that discourage them. The Valencia defense put a rough 20 minutes behind it and stepped back up to the challenge in the second half.
“I thought our defense played great,” Goralsky said. “everything was kept in front of them. They played the ball quicker.”
Strong goalkeeping by Valencia’s Danielle McNeil gave the offense the fire it needed to build strong attacks. Hart sophomore Maggie Yoshioka showed impressive footwork as she danced around Valencia’s defense. She fired a shot to the left side of the goal, but McNeil dove and fully extended to punch the ball away gracefully.
The Vikings’ offense took that momentum and began an all-out assault on the Indians’ defense. They kept punching until eventually sophomore Jackie Victorio was rewarded a penalty kick. She shot it low and to the right to catch Megan Kelly off guard and put the Vikings on the board.
A well-placed shot, and an unfortunate one for the Vikings, allowed Hart to extend their lead back to four in the 58th minute. Sarah Melvin centered herself and took a shot into the top-left corner of the goal. McNeil extended for the save, but the ball was just out of reach.
Valencia tried to claw into the lead, but it proved to be too much to overcome as the whistle blew and left the scoreline at 5-1. The Vikings will remain home for a battle against West Ranch on Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. and the Indians will return how to face Canyon at 3:15 p.m.
“Hopefully the girls realize they can play with Hart,” said Goralsky. “Next time we play them at their house, they’ll come out with that same intensity.”