Both Canyon and Valencia girls soccer stepped on the pitch Thursday night at Valencia for a match that was poised to be a good one after each team came away with a big win on Tuesday.
The Vikings had secured their first win of the season while the Cowboys had just taken down the second place Centurions. They were on a crash course to butt heads Thursday night and neither team was willing to back down which resulted in a 1-1 draw.
Hungry for a second league win, Valencia (5-7-7 overall, 1-3-6 Foothill League) put the Cowboys on edge early and controlled the first 30 minutes of the half. Solid ball handling and smart passes kept the ball in its possession.
“We played the ball a little bit more forward today,” said Valencia head coach Kevin Goralsky. “The ball movement was good, and the control of the ball was good. That’s why we had them on their toes because they were chasing.”
Canyon head coach Milan Cabrera expressed how Valencia was able to frustrate her and her team early in the match.
“They were just dominant. They were hitting the balls and we couldn’t get a rhythm,” she said.
Despite having control over the ball and the pace of the game, the Vikings still struggled to put the ball in the back of the net.
“I don’t know if something clicked,” Cabrera said. “You saw momentum change and my defense just started attacking and even started stepping up. That was our shift to change. So, we had a more of a bite and put up more of a fight in the last 10 minutes.”
The change in mentality gave Canyon (3-8-4, 3-4-3) the ability to finish the final ten minutes of the half strong and send both teams into halftime scoreless.
The excitement ramped up in the second half. The match turned into a second-half battle in which both teams struggled to create opportunities on goal.
Valencia seemed as though they were going to get the edge early in the second half when Alyssa Raffi cut past a Canyon defender and fired a left footer towards the goal. However, it bounced off the crossbar and over the back of the goal.
The Cowboys were the ones to break the tie. Jackie Morrison broke past the Valencia backline into a one-on-one situation with Grace Cashman. She was ready to shoot but was fouled hard in the box and received a penalty kick. She drilled the penalty kick home to give the Cowboys a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute.
“I was trying to clear my head because I knew we needed it,” Morrison said about lining up for the penalty kick. “We needed this win to go to CIF, so I just wanted to be able to do that for my team. There’s no better feeling in the world than that honestly.”
Trailing in the second half due to a set piece goal is symptomatic of the way luck has gone for the Vikings this season.
“It seems like we’ve been either tying or playing from behind this year,” Gorlasky said.
However, the Vikings always managed to squeak out last-minute heroics to save the game. Isabelle Goralsky has been Miss Clutch for them lately. In their last three games, she has either scored the equalizer or put the Vikings in a position to draw. On Thursday night, she was the hero.
In the 75th minute, Isabelle and her teammate Jackie Victorio converged on the ball for a two-on-one situation with Canyon goalkeeper Aubrey McKessy. Victorio shot a rocket that ricocheted off McKessy. Isabelle was in perfect position to corral the rebound and knock it back into the open goal.
“I saw Jackie going to the ball first, so I was thinking, ‘I really hope that she gets to it.’ When she did and it bounced off (McKessy) and the ball was at me, I knew that I had to get it in,” Isabelle said. “It was a really nice feeling because rather than ending the season on a loss we ended it on a tie.”
With the final conclusion resulting in the draw, Canyon’s fate hangs in the balance. The Cowboys can still go to the playoffs, but would need to be picked up as an at-large team.
However they still had good things to come from this season. They built confidence as a team and showed they are a team that can beat anybody on any given night.
“We’re definitely not a team that’s going to be walked all over,” Cabrera said. “That’s the big thing for us as a team. We have a young team, now going into this momentum with three wins we have established that we are a force, we’re potentially contenders to go into the playoffs.”
For the Vikings, the season is over, but they have positives to take home with them as well. Additionally, they have things to look forward to for next year.
“I had four sophomores starting every game so that’s encouraging for next year,” Goralsky said. “I’m proud of them. You’d never know we tied six games in league. They played like a first-place team every time.”