Castaic girls’ soccer snatches road win at West Ranch 

Castaic junior Mallory Palm (22) and West Ranch junior Isabella Truong (5) compete for the ball in the first half of a Foothill league match at Castaic High School on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. Chris Torres/The Signal
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The Foothill League girls’ soccer opener between the West Ranch Wildcats and the Castaic Coyotes on Thursday looked like two teams who had yet to play a competitive game this season. 

But the Coyotes (1-0, 1-0) were able to grab a quick goal in the opening minutes of the second half through forward Mallory Palm to beat the Wildcats (0-1, 0-1), 1-0, on the road. 

“I’m just happy,” Castaic head coach Jose Leon said. “It was a nice goal. She could have scored more but she got tired.” 

If the Coyotes were tired, they didn’t show it. The Wildcats found it very difficult to break down Castaic’s 3-5-2 formation in the first half, with the Coyotes dropping deep to cut off passing lanes to the middle of the field. 

Once Palm scored to open the second half, Leon switched to four defenders to keep more players back when defending. The tactical switch worked as West Ranch again found it difficult to break down the Coyotes’ defensive wall. 

The Wildcats rarely got clean shots off, with Castaic keeper Keira Rankin saving the two shots that reached her net. 

“They didn’t get that many chances,” Leon said. “We blocked them almost every single time.” 

West Ranch co-head coach Eric White said that his team — which was missing junior Ava Magana, a second-team all-Foothill League selection last year, among others — is still figuring things out. The Wildcats had quite a few players in positions they wouldn’t normally play, White said, which led to some of the stagnation on offense. 

“It’s the nature of the beast. No excuses,” White said. “They have to play, have to overcome it. It was close, but they fought a little bit harder than we did, I thought, today, and a lot of 50-50s they won that we didn’t quite win.” 

The Wildcats also did well to keep the Castaic offense at bay, other than the one goal allowed. Wildcats keeper Maddison Coe saved two shots in the first half and was quick to claim any passes that could have been met by a Castaic boot. 

White gave Palm credit for timing her run and getting to the pass before Coe could for Castaic’s goal. 

“You have to make a choice — you’re either coming out or staying and she came out and the girl timed it right and hit it right past her,” White said. “I thought Nati (Gutierrez) and Alana (Toliver), our two center backs, I thought they played well together, first time those two playing together. Nati showed a lot of toughness, I thought. And then I really thought Bella Truong, she was all over the field. I think her presence was very, very much felt and appreciated.” 

Thursday’s Foothill League opener was officiated not by CIF officials, who are still on strike with the Southern Section over wages, but by local college students, per White. More than once, coaches on both sides were arguing with the referees, but White gave them the benefit of the doubt, realizing that they are doing a service to the local high school teams. 

“We truly appreciate the kids who are stepping up to do this and let our girls have a season,” White said. “It’s always a shame when adults do things that that put high school soccer players, their seasons, in jeopardy. They’re going to do the best they can and, you know, they’re gonna miss calls, but they’re not the reason we lost it at all.” 

Castaic has a shot to start the season 2-0 when the Coyotes host Golden Valley on Tuesday. 

West Ranch will be looking to get into the win column when the Wildcats host Canyon on Tuesday. 

“I think we’ll get better,” White said. “I think we’ll get healthier and get some people back that help us in key positions, and we’ll find the roles. We do this every year. We always say it’s our goal is to be playing our best soccer at the end of the year, not at the beginning.” 

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