Eighty minutes couldn’t decide a winner between the Castaic Coyotes girls’ soccer team and the hosting Saugus Centurions on Thursday.
Castaic (5-5-3, 2-2-1) has now finished four games without a goal in the past three weeks after a 0-0 draw with Saugus (4-3-2, 3-0-2). However, the team has shown a strong defensive presence and has now 0 in three straight games.
The Coyotes played in a 5-3-2 formation to combat goal-machine freshman Makea Leonard. The freshman had eight goals in as many games but was held scoreless in her second of four Foothill League matches.
The conservative Coyotes actually managed to dominate the possession battle in the game. The team didn’t generate many shots on target in the first half but applied pressure from the get-go.
Sophomores Claire Silvestro and Kennedy Crone were the biggest factors in that pressure, as the pair aggressively pushed the ball up consistently through the first half.
Crone nearly broke free to potentially score the opening goal just before the halftime break but Saugus defender Audrey Smith made a smart play to strip the ball away. Castaic took a corner kick on the ensuing play but couldn’t force a shot on target as the halftime whistles sounded.
Saugus still had plenty of chances. The Centurions ran more than a dozen quick counters down the field but just couldn’t find the right shot or pass.
“Lots of credit to Castaic, they work really hard, they’re set up really well, they keep their structure but we just played really bad,” said Centurion head coach Kai English. “Our passing was off. Everything was off so it was a really disappointing game overall.”
Castaic came out of the halftime break with the same intensity and immediately applied pressure. Silvestro was a constant headache for the Saugus backline, who had to work to keep the Coyote forward scoreless.
The Centurions would need a lot of saves in between the posts and sophomore goalkeeper Natalie Ramirez delivered in her fourth clean sheet this season.
One of the closest shots of the day came off the leg of Castaic’s Chloe Colgan, who fired in a 30-yard free kick that Ramirez just saved.
Castaic sophomore Mackenzie Wiese fired a corner kick deep inside the box late at the 66-minute mark. Several Coyotes were close to getting a touch but two taps from Ramirez cleared the ball out.
Ramirez made one last sensational play in the 76th minute. Castaic sophomore Leila Azodi stole the ball in Centurion territory and rocketed in a shot to the top left corner of the net. A leaping Ramirez made the one-handed save to secure the draw with the Coyotes.
Leonard made plays when she could but the freshman was blanketed all game. The freshman found some space late in the game and drove the ball through several Castaic defenders. The play didn’t develop a goal as the Coyotes recovered on defense in time.
“[Leonard] had three players with her the whole time,” English said. “So it was about trying to get her some support. At the end, we threw another forward up there but it just wasn’t really our day.”
Junior Sophia Ruys was very active for Saugus on the attack. Ruys helped move the ball up and nearly forced in the golden goal in the 64th minute. The junior worked the ball around her defender and took a shot on target. The ball took a high deflection off a Castaic defender and nearly got over Coyotes’ keeper Keira Rankin but the goalie made the save.
Castaic head coach Jose Leon was proud of his team’s effort and execution throughout the game.
“I’m pleased,” Leon said. “[Saugus is] a pretty good team. I’m pleased that we executed. I’m happy with them. You just gotta take it one game at a time.”
The Centurions remain unbeaten in league action while the Coyotes only have one loss. Both teams are in prime position to secure a top-four spot if not a championship in the Foothill League.
Castaic is making some noise in its second year of varsity. The Coyote roster is heavily weighed by underclassmen, giving Leon hope for the near future.
“We are a very young varsity team,” said Leon. “We’re playing against kids who are two or three years older than us and that’s a big difference in the maturity. I’m assuming any other school, it takes about eight years to really get there. Just like Hart, [Saugus] and most of the other schools that have been here forever. So right now I think we’re just coming along. Our maturity is a little low right now so we’ll see what happens.”
The two teams will play again Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Castaic at 3:15 p.m. For now, Saugus will play the second of four consecutive home games on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. when the Centurions host Canyon. Castaic will look to break out of its three-game scoreless draw streak on Tuesday when the team heads to West Ranch.
“We had come along pretty far,” English said. “I thought we were playing really well before we had a little break for Christmas and New Year. But we have a lot to work on if we want to achieve our goals and finish towards the top of this league. We have a lot that we need to improve.”