Forward Elizabeth Worden could not be stopped on Saturday, as she blasted in three goals to lead the Santa Clarita Blue Heat to a 3-0 victory over the Calgary Foothills at College of the Canyons.
Worden didn’t look like a player coming off an ankle injury, registering the hat trick in her first game back with the Blue Heat (4-1).
Santa Clarita dominated possession in the first half, leading to two of Worden’s strikes.
“We wanted to play possession and keep the ball so I was just playing how the team wanted to play and it ended up being me scoring the goals,” Worden said. “It could have been anyone but I just did my part.”
Worden, a University of Texas player, recovered a deflected free kick from captain Sydney Vermillion midway through the first half and rocketed in the first of three goals. The forward scored again thanks to some impressive footwork and passing from Olufolasade Adamolekun.
Calgary (5-2) turned the tides in the second half and took over the possession battle. However, the Blue Heat backline forced Foothills into tougher shots, allowing goalkeeper Jordan Brown to retain the shutout on Saturday with eight saves.
Calgary came close but just couldn’t get anything past Brown. Andersen Williams and Mya Jones both had shots on target, including one rocket from Williams, but the Georgia Bulldog keeper Brown held strong for the clean sheet.
The Longhorn promised head coach Leonardo Neveleff two goals in her return to the pitch but fired in an insurance goal midway through the second half.
“You can see it in practice, she’s just a beast,” Neveleff said. “That’s the type of player that everybody wants to have on the team. I asked her today for two goals and she said she got it. She overachieved and scored three. That’s an excellent player.”
Santa Clarita’s win heated up the playoff race in the United Women’s Soccer’s West Division as the Blue Heat now trail Calgary by three points but have played two fewer games than the Foothills.
The loss was the Foothills’ first shutout loss of the season and now evens the series between the two West Division teams. Foothills took round one in Calgary, 1-0, with Worden out from injury.
“The girls are in high spirits and very motivated and we’ll take that to Arizona next week,” Neveleff said. “At times, we can let up so we have to keep working hard to achieve what we want.”
The semi-pro league teams also face tons of scheduling conflicts due to players’ commitments to their national, NCAA or varsity teams.
“These players have a lot of commitment with national teams and universities,” Neveleff said. “We have to work with what we have, but when we get everybody on the pitch, it’s amazing to see. It’s so easy to coach and the team looks great.”
Both teams are aiming to get back on top in the UWS. Calgary was the 2022 runner-up to the league champion Chicago Mustangs, while the Blue Heat are still playoff regulars and 2021 UWS champs.
The Blue Heat will travel a little east for its first matchup with Arizona FC while Calgary returns home to host the Reno Vikings.
Santa Clarita takes on Arizona FC on Saturday at 7 p.m. while Foothills takes its bye week before hosting Reno on July 8 at 7 p.m.
“Just keep winning and playing how we did tonight,” Worden said on what she wants to see out of her team. “I think if we keep playing like that, we’ll make it all the way.”