Hart Indians girls’ soccer opened up the state tournament with a physical home win on Tuesday over the El Camino Real Royals.
El Camino finished the game down a player after junior Rocio Penate picked up her second yellow card for a rough slide tackle on Hart senior Briley Phelps.
Phelps stepped over Penate and was also assessed a yellow. The Indians had a multiple-goal lead already and the one-man advantage only heightened the pressure on the Royal defense.
Hart won the game 2-0 to clinch its ninth straight win and will move on in the state tournament.
Sophomore Gia Costello opened up the scoring midway through the first half when she broke free and netted the team’s first goal of the state tournament. Costello was battling on the field for her senior teammates and didn’t waste an opportunity to keep the season alive.
“I couldn’t imagine doing this with any other group,” Costello said. “This group is incredible. I don’t want to see any of the seniors leave and I love all of them.”
Hart (17-2-5) ramped up the pressure and had some chances but El Camino keeper Isabella Andrino was solid, and racked up four saves.
The Indians made it a two-score lead five minutes into the second half. Defender Macey Edemann went for the assist on her previous two free kicks but the Royals cleared. At the 45-minute mark, Edemann decided to rocket one in on her own and blasted the 2-0 goal past Andrino.
Junior Natalie Mejia came close to amping up the lead several times with a handful of crosses that either bounced off the crossbar or were just cleared by the El Camino defense.
Penate’s exit came toward the end of the game with Hart boiling momentum. The team was able to showcase its depth not only with the second unit coming on and ramping up attacks, but also throughout without Hart’s anchor in the midfield.
Junior Ariana Salvador missed the match, training with her other squad, the Filipino National team. Hart head coach Brett Croft was elated with his team’s performance in Salvador’s absence.
“It was incredible,” Croft said. “I think a lot of girls were chomping at the bit for an opportunity and today they got it. Every one of them that went in was ready to go, and rocking and rolling.”
Phelps believes all 29 players on the varsity roster can make an impact in any match.
“One through 29, everyone is capable on this team,” Phelps said. “So, it’s really cool to see other people contribute in their way and everyone showed their ability. It’s awesome to have players that are gonna be superstars in my program.”
It was another spectacular season for the Division 1 City Section champion Royals. El Camino (15-4-3) had not allowed a goal in 15 straight matches, but Hart was the first team to put two past the Royals this season.
The Indians will now advance to the SoCal Regional semifinals, where Hart will host the West Hills Wolf Pack. West Hills is the San Diego Section Division 1 champion and will make the trip up from Santee all the way to Newhall.
Both teams will enter Thursday’s contest with just a day off from their last match, and just a few days from winning their section. The Indians have shown no issues being up for the challenge.
“This is what we prepared for all year,” Phelps said. “We worked all season to get to this point. So, now we’re just gonna pick our heads up and work through it. This is the moment and we’re all ready for this moment.”
Hart and West Hills are set for a 3 p.m. start time on Thursday at Larry Fiscus Field at Hart.