Two quick goals pushed Canyon Cowboys girls’ soccer to victory and into the playoffs on Thursday over the visiting Castaic Coyotes.
Canyon won, 2-1, on a windy night, after erasing a 1-0 deficit with goals coming within three minutes of each other, to notch its third straight win.
Castaic (6-8-5, 3-5-2) came out of the gates fast and controlled possession to start the game. The Coyotes applied pressure from the start and finally broke through in the 36th minute.
Castaic earned a corner kick just before halftime. Junior Mallory Palm rocketed the ball into the middle of the pack of players, where senior Chloe Colgan was ready to header in the 1-0 score.
The Cowboys (7-5-1, 6-4) settled in and entered the second half on a mission. Canyon had a ball fired from deep bounce just off the crossbar. The deflected ball landed right in front of Canyon’s Jilliana DiDomenico, who fired in the equalizer.
“We started a little slow,” DiDomenico said. “I think they thought they had it in the bag. When we came out with a lot more intensity, they couldn’t get their second goal.”
Three minutes later, the Cowboys fought for the same play. Defender Reese Shaughnessy rocketed the ball from over 50 yards, in an attempt to just put the ball in play. However, the defender’s ball sailed, and perhaps with some thanks to the wind, bounced through Castaic keeper Keira Rankin’s hands into the goal.
“Honestly, my entire mentality was I just don’t want it near my goal so let’s just get it near theirs,” Shaughnessy said. “I guess I just put some magic on the ball or something. I can’t really explain what it’s like to score because I don’t score very often.”
Canyon kept piling on the pressure but Rankin locked in and delivered three of her four saves to close out the game.
The halftime adjustments were much-needed ones, according to Cowboys head coach Leonardo Neveleff.
“We saw how fast Castaic was playing at the beginning and they were controlling the game,” Neveleff said. “So, we had a little talk at halftime, saying that we needed to change our attitude towards them when we went back in. It was a different game for us and we started connecting a little more.”
The Coyotes went all-in on attack, needing an equalizer. The team developed several chances but Canyon goalie Makayla Charles led her team to victory, saving three shots in the last 16 minutes.
Charles sealed the game with a diving save after a defensive breakdown on the Canyon backline. The Coyotes were just inches away from their second draw this week against a formidable foe.
Neveleff was pleased with his team’s performance, especially after some late highlight plays from Charles.
“That save felt like a heart attack on that shot,” Neveleff said. “My heart stopped.”
Canyon’s three-game win streak has made the team’s postseason dreams a reality. The Cowboys could still make a run at second place in league. The hot streak started against Golden Valley over a week ago
“We put our all into that game against Golden Valley and it really paid off,” Shaughnessy said. “I think we realized the power we really have as a team and we’ve just been riding on that high.”
Castaic is still in a good spot to clinch the school’s first team-sport playoff appearance. Head coach Jose Leon has plenty of CIF experience and believes he has cracked the code on the team’s success.
“As a coach, you’ve got to find the right system for your team and I finally found it,” Leon said. “So, I feel that I can play against anybody. And if we don’t make mistakes, we can actually win the games.”
The Coyotes control their own destiny and will need a win or two to make the postseason. Castaic will return home to host Saugus on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.
Canyon won’t dial it back now that the team has clinched. Neveleff wants to see his team continue to heat up before heading back to CIF for the second year in a row.
“We’re going to work on the game plan and try to do our best against [Hart and Saugus],” Neveleff said. “We have to use our momentum and keep growing.”
The Hart Indians are still fighting for a league title, so there’ll be plenty on the line in the final week of the regular season. The Cowboys head to Hart on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.