West Ranch girls’ soccer was able to come away from Thursday’s Foothill League matchup with a 2-2 draw against Valencia as the Wildcats (1-1-1) scored a late equalizer against the Vikings (0-3-1) at home.
West Ranch senior Naliya Montebon got the late goal to secure the draw for the Wildcats. She was able to latch onto a pass from sophomore Ava Magaña to spoil what would have been Valencia’s first win of the season.
“I think we’re happy that we played the full 80 [minutes] and salvaged a point,” West Ranch co-head coach Jared White said. “If we take a step back and just kind of evaluate it, it’s a point. It could have been a loss.”
Magaña had a hand in the Wildcats’ other goal, scoring just before the end of the first half to make it 1-1 at the break. Both goals came after periods of intense pressure that saw Valencia’s defense stand strong on multiple shot attempts only to see the ball hit the back of the net at the end.
“Soccer is an unforgiving game,” Valencia head coach Brian Miller said. “It has no favorites. Just when we went a bit more defensive to try and protect it, we couldn’t.”
Miller’s squad may have been unable to get the win, but he thought that it was one of the team’s better performances in the early stages of the season. The Vikings are missing 18 players from last season’s squad, and Miller is still looking to build his team up.
“We’ve improved every game,” Miller said. “We’ve got 18 new players on varsity. Two holdovers from last year and 18 new players. That takes time and games.”
Valencia’s two goals both came from set pieces. The first one came with just under nine minutes of play in the first half on a free kick by junior Ariana Neely, a well-taken strike just on the outside of the top left corner of the penalty box.
The second goal came via a corner kick with just over 27 minutes to go in the second half. Valencia junior Sofie Rooney was able to connect with junior Lauren Hunt’s high, looping corner on a close-range volley to put the Vikings in front.
Miller was happy to see his team bag a couple of goals, though he’d like to see some more of them despite knowing how tough it can be to break down a defense and beat a keeper.
“Scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in soccer,” Miller said.
West Ranch looked like the more likely team to score throughout, peppering the Valencia goal with six shots on target and plenty more that weren’t too far off. Valencia had just three shots on goal.
“For a young group, and for a team that worked incredibly hard, we want to kind of end on that positive note,” White said. “Looking forward, gotta play better.”
Much of the Wildcats’ play evolved down the left flank, first with senior Mikayla Toliver in the first half and then junior Isabella Truong in the second half. Truong moved back to the midfield with the reintroduction of Toliver midway through the second half, and the two continued to combine to put pressure on Valencia’s back line.
“Our job as coaches is to identify some sort of weakness,” White said. “And we thought maybe they’re stronger outside back was on the other side. So, we tried to mix and match and find the right matchup for us. And that was definitely a point of emphasis going forward, especially after halftime.”
West Ranch will now look forward to a tournament game against Pacifica on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Bolsa Grande High School. The two teams will be competing in the Best in the West tournament.
Valencia will have a few days off until a home game against Canyon on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.