Saugus Centurions girls soccer dominated possession in Tuesday’s home league battle with the Canyon Cowboys, but it would still take almost all 80 minutes to decide a winner.
Junior Sophia Ruys fired in the golden goal in stoppage time to lead Saugus to victory over the short-handed Cowboys.
Ruys scored the Olympico goal off a corner kick that swung in and just bounced off the hands of Canyon goalkeeper Makayla Charles. The junior was just looking to put the ball in play but ended up netting the sole goal in the 1-0 win for Saugus.
“I was not expecting to get it out of that cross,” Ruys said. “I was really looking for someone else but it worked out. I guess the winds helped me and were in my favor.”
Canyon (5-4-1, 3-3) was forced to play a fragment of the game down a player after forward Bailey Williamson picked up a pair of yellow cards.
Saugus (4-3-2, 4-0-2) controlled the game from the opening touch with a lopsided discrepancy in the possession battle.
However, Canyon had quick counters that led to numerous shots in the first half. The Cowboys couldn’t generate any quality looks to start the game but their midfielders made a ton of accurate passes to lead fast attacks.
The Centurions continuously worked the ball down the sidelines. Saugus’ quality looks increased as the half went on as the forwards kept piling on pressure.
Canyon made a goalkeeper substitution after 29 minutes. Cowboys’ goalie Debbie Roman entered the game for Charles and was tested immediately.
Saugus freshman Makea Leonard stole the ball after a sloppy goal kick from Roman. Leonard worked the ball up and fed a wide-open Aneesa Bolanos, who fired in a shot to the top right corner, but Roman was there for the save.
The keeper was tested again minutes later in the exact same spot but registered her second save on a shot from Centurion senior Bella Durazo.
Saugus was forced to finish the game without starting sophomore Emily Thompson, who exited the match early with a knee injury. Thompson was down for a few moments but as soon as the whistle blew, Canyon coach Leonardo Neveleff rushed out to assist the opposing player.
“Half of the soccer players here, I’m their coach for club,” Neveleff said. “Even if I’m not the coach of the club, all I care about is the athlete. I just want the best for the players and to have fun and learn more every game. I hate losing like everybody else, but at the same time I just want these girls to develop and reach their goals.”
Centurions midfielder Ashley Striegel nearly put her team up several times with a handful of deep shots just missing the net.
Canyon had nearly no chances in the second half. Saugus was determined to score and kept forcing the ball into the Cowboys’ territory.
“We try to keep the ball as much as we can but with the good players they have on top, we started to panic and the game plan changed,” Neveleff said.
Neveleff made the swap again to put Charles back in the game between the posts. The goalie didn’t need to make any saves in the first half but came alive for Canyon in the second.
Charles racked up three saves in the second half, including one on a relentless, late Saugus attack. The Centurions took three shots in one quick possession but deflections by the Canyon back line and Charles held Saugus scoreless.
Williamson picked up her second yellow card midway through the second half after a collision with Ruys. The two had plenty to say, whether it was to the referee or to one another. Ruys was also awarded a yellow card alongside her competitor Williamson, who exited the game.
“[Williamson is] really good,” Ruys said. “She’s always been a big threat playing against us. So I usually play forward but coach had me dropped back to play three to go against her. And I felt like I really shut her down and was able to basically get her out of the game because she got a red card. But she did play amazing and it was really tough going against her. But we really wanted to win.”
Ruys is normally on the attacking side but started the game at left back to slow down Williamson. Once her assignment was forced to exit, the junior was moved back into the attack and scored the game-winner.
The Centurions were in danger of finishing in their second consecutive scoreless draw. Ruys’ late goal kept her team unbeaten in league play and led to Saugus’ first win of the new year.
Saugus had a sloppy performance in its last outing but head coach Kai English was pleased with the group’s bounce-back performance on Tuesday.
“The game against Castaic,” English said, “we watched it over again and it was bad. Pretty much no way to describe it. So, we worked on passing a lot. And we know how good we are and how good we can play when we knock the ball around. So, it was good to play like we know how to play.”
Both teams are now at the halfway mark of league play. Saugus has aspirations of finishing at the summit of a top-heavy Foothill League. The Centurions will be back in action on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. when they host Valencia.
“I want us to move on and become first place because we definitely have a shot and can do it,” Ruys said. “And just be a great team and push forward.”
Canyon also has the pieces to finish near the top of league but will be without one of its star players in its next match. The Williamson-less Cowboys head to West Ranch at 3:15 p.m. on Thursday.