Late goal leads to draw between Golden Valley and Saugus girls soccer

Dan Watson/The Signal
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The Golden Valley girls soccer team rallied in the closing minutes of the match to draw 1-1 against Saugus at Golden Valley on Tuesday.

“That was a tough match,” said Golden Valley head coach Freddy Wheeler. “I think that was a great match for us. I talked about us needing to turn a corner. Securing a tie against a team like Saugus is huge for the program and I think we’re into the corner now. We’re coming around that curve.”

After the final whistle, Wheeler was jumping around and yelling with joy. His girls gathered around him screaming in excitement after defying the odds late in the game to prevent another tick in the loss column.

One girl exclaimed, “I don’t care it was a tie!”

On the other side of the pitch, the feeling was somber. Saugus (6-3-3 overall, 1-0-2 league) regrouped to lick its wounds after what felt like a strong win soured into a tie, leaving a bitter taste in its mouth.

“A lot of lost opportunities,” said Saugus head coach Kevin Miner. “I felt like we controlled the game for the first part, just couldn’t get the ball in the net.”

The first half of play was controlled by the Centurions. Despite relatively equal attempts on goal, Saugus’ offense created more pressure than Golden Valley’s. This resulted in a 1-0 lead for Saugus when the referee whistled for halftime.

More: Foothill League boys soccer roundup: Valencia shuts out West Ranch

The first goal came halfway through the first half. In the 25th minute, Saugus defender Grace Seitz threw the ball in roughly 15 yards out from the goal. Madison Robbins received the toss and performed an athletic sideways shot to squeeze the ball between the goal post and Golden Valley goalkeeper, Eziekella Okereke, just out of her reach on a diving save attempt. 

“I’m really glad I got one in,” Robbins said. “I just made sure I got my hips around the ball so that way it was able to go in the direction I wanted to go. I feel like sometimes if I don’t score, I let the team down and I’m really glad I got to score.”

Okereke had a stellar performance in the box. She may have conceded a goal, but every other attempt at scoring from the Centurions was stymied by her athleticism and persistence. 

On several occasions throughout the match, Okereke dove to make a save and leave the goal open for a second or even third chance attack. However, she didn’t allow Saugus to take advantage of any of them. Every time she would dive from the ground back up to make the save again.

“I was glad my defense was able to help me with the second chances that they had and was able to keep us in the game,” Okereke said. “I’m glad I was able to stay in the game and not get frustrated. I was very focused during this game because I really wanted to win this game.”

The second half was much the same. The Saugus offense continued to pressure, and the defense was ruthless on the back line. Golden Valley (4-5-2, 0-2-1)looked as though it was going to do what it does best and score early after the break, but fate had different plans.

“We made sure to keep them high and push throughout the game,” Seitz said. “It’s just frustrating because one slip-up on defense is much more catastrophic than one on forward.”

Golden Valley’s Jenna Byrne lined up for a corner and sent towards Mariah Garcia. She stuck a leg up to boot it towards the goal. Madalynn Moreno blocked the attempt and left the goal open for a second chance attack.

Taylor Arietta stopped the hearts of everyone in attendance as she charged the rebound. She displayed a great deal of aggressiveness as a freshman. Everyone held their breath as she chipped the ball towards the goal and narrowly missed. The balled skimmed past the outer post.

“I was trying to get there,” Arietta said. “It was a hard angle and I missed. I just kept on playing and stayed strong and put it past me.”

The clock continued to tick, and things began to look grim for the Grizzlies. Almost like a moment out of a Disney movie, the tide changed and the Grizzlies were able to reverse their fortune.

Kaia Usher sent a through-ball down the center of the pitch. Isabella Montiforte broke the back line and chased the loose ball. She gained possession and was left in a one versus one situation. She planted and shot, driving the ball into the back of the net in the 77th minute.

“I think we’ve improved a lot,” Arietta said. “We showed that we can play well in league and win games.”

The Grizzly defense gained a second wind after the goal and stepped up to keep Saugus away in the final three minutes. In the final minute of play, a free kick from Saugus’s Shaina Berdin caused pandemonium at the Golden Valley goal. A swarm of white and black jerseys wrestled over the ball as the ball bounced off the crossbar several times before the Grizzlies thwarted the Centurion attack.

“It was just lost opportunities,” Miner said. “We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities and that’s the bottom line. I’ll give (Golden Valley) credit. They fought hard until the end and they took advantage of the chance that they got.”

Both teams will return to the pitch on Thursday. Golden Valley will stay home to host Valencia at 3:15 p.m. The Centurions will return to Saugus to host Canyon at the same time.

“I’m really proud of the entire team and how they stepped up and did what they needed to do,” Wheeler said.

West Ranch 1, Valencia 0

The Wildcats (7-6-2, 1-1-1) secured their first league win of the season while preventing the Vikings (4-6-2, 0-2-1) from doing the same. 

The match was evenly contested until the very end until West Ranch’s Leanna Kane broke the stalemate. She lined up for a penalty kick in the last three minutes of the match. 

Valencia will travel to Golden Valley Thursday and West Ranch will travel to Hart. Both games are at 3:15 p.m.

Hart 2, Canyon 0

Hart (14-1-2, 3-0) slid into its third league win of the year on its closest league contest. The Cowboys (1-5-2, 1-1-1) lost their first game since going winless in pre-league play.

Mialani Noble scored the first goal for the Indians early in the match. Alyssa Irwin scored the second goal with an assist from Stefani Woll as the half came to an end. 

In the second half, Canyon played a shutdown defense to keep Hart from widening the gap.

Both teams will return to the pitch Thursday at 3:15 p.m. Hart will remain home for a match against West Ranch and Canyon will travel to Saugus.

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