Saugus girls’ soccer blasts Canyon in league opener 

Canyon's Bailey Williamson (23) reaches for the ball in possession of Saugus senior Anessa Bolanos (21) during the first half of Thursday's game at Saugus High School. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
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Stellar passing and quality touches led to an onslaught of goals for Saugus Centurions girls’ soccer in its league opener.  

The Centurions took down the visiting Canyon Cowboys 8-1 on Thursday, to win the team’s home opener.  

Saugus (1-1, 1-0) moved the ball exceptionally through the midfield, which led to the team dominating possession throughout the Foothill League contest. 

Six Centurions scored in the rout, including Bella Alvarez and Celeste Ramirez, who each finished with two-goal days. 

Saugus sophomore Makea Leonard (11) and Canyon’s Reese Shaughnessy (15) attempt to gain possession of the ball during the second half of Thursday’s game at Saugus High School. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

The Cents’ scoring didn’t take long. Saugus sophomore Makea Leonard scored the match’s first goal in the second minute after a melodic back and forth at midfield with junior Makenna Blum. Leonard and Blum’s speed was on display all day, as the two constantly weaved through defenders and forced the ball deep into Canyon territory. 

Ramirez scored her first goal of the day to make it 3-0 in the 26th minute. Saugus recovered and pushed up on a short goal kick and scored with little resistance due to Canyon (0-1, 0-1) being pushed up looking for a quick counter.  

Centurion senior Sophia Ruys blasted in her score just before halftime. A cross bounced around a sea of players just outside the box for the second time in the first half. The ball eventually found an in-stride Ruys, who drilled the goal. Ruys was giving the Cowboys’ backline fits all day, working the ball fluidly down the sideline around several Canyon defenders. 

Saugus senior Sophia Ruys (10) shoots the ball during the first half of Thursday’s game against Canyon High School on Nov. 30. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“We really wanted to score and show what Saugus is made of,” Ruys said. “We wanted to start off the season and let everyone know that Saugus is a contender this year. 

Ruys’ goal was similar to teammate Makeli Leonard’s goal that made it 2-0 just minutes before. The Leonards are consistent as they come. Last season as a freshman, Makea netted a game-winning goal against Valencia in her Foothill League debut. Her younger sister Makeli matched the feat, with a goal of her own in her first league game. 

Canyon had some chances and nearly changed the tide numerous times. The Cowboys’ one goal was a gem off the boot of Sienna Salas, who fired in a screamer off a deep free kick to put Canyon on the board.  

Senior Bailey Williamson and forward Jiliana DiDomenico both had some chances as well. The Cowboys typically struck hardest after a goal was conceded. The two worked numerous quick counters around the Centurion backline but weren’t able to get a ball past Saugus keeper Nataly Ramirez.  

Alvarez netted both of her scores within 15 minutes of the second-half whistle. The senior cleaned up and drilled another ball that Canyon struggled to clear out in the 49th minute before scoring again with ease six minutes later. 

Blum picked up another assist with a long, low cross that found its way past several players and hit Aneesa Bolanos for an open-net goal. 

Canyon’s Reese Shaughnessy (15) fights for the ball against Saugus defense during the second half of Thursday’s game at Saugus High School. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“Everyone is unique in their own way and we always find a way to connect together,” Ruys said. “That’s what’s really great about this team. We have so many good, different, unique players. It’s amazing when we can find those connections with each other.” 

Canyon never said die and closed out the game with stronger aggression in the final 10 minutes. Williamson earned a free kick and just missed wide. DiDomenico got under a corner kick and fired in an on-target header, but even Centurion backup keeper Emily Cespedes was feeling the Saugus energy, as she made the big save. 

Cespedes was one of several bench players who entered the game in the second half but showed they belong. 

“It was good to see that we still are the team that I think we are,” English said. “It was good to move the ball as well as we did in our midfield. No matter who I put in there, they were incredible.” 

English was pleased with his team’s performance, especially after a huge 7-1 loss on Monday at Quartz Hill.  

“I think it’s a great start,” English said. “We had to react after a really bad loss on Monday so I was interested to see how we’d come out and play. I was very impressed with our response. I thought we kept the ball really well. We probably could have even scored a couple more times in the first half. At halftime, I just told them, ‘Don’t let them hang around, finish them off.’ Everything that I wanted, they produced today.” 

Saugus is eyeing big aspirations ahead. After last season’s second-place finish in league and heartbreaking double overtime loss in the postseason, the Centurions are hungry for more. 

“After last season’s disappointing end, we’ve set some goals as a team,” English said. “We want to be up there competing with Hart again, that’s our goal. We don’t want to be taking second again, we came in with a goal to win league. Obviously we’re not gonna win league after one big win. We have a lot of work to do. We have to stay humble and keep working hard because it’s just one game. But we know that if we can play like this every day, we will be hard for everybody. So our goal is to go out there and beat everybody.” 

Both teams return to action on Tuesday with more league play. Saugus will remain home and host Valencia while Canyon heads to West Ranch. Both matches start at 3:15 p.m. 

Saugus senior Sophia Ruys (10) passes the ball against Canyon defense during the first half of Thursday’s game against Canyon on Nov. 30. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Saugus sophomore Makea Leonard (11) fights for the ball against Reese Shaughnessy (15) during the first half of Thursday’s game at Saugus High School. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Saugus junior Liliana Golphenee (2) fights for the ball against Canyon’s Siena Salas (5) during the first half of Thursday’s game at Saugus on Nov. 30. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Saugus junior Makea Leonard (11) goes up to gain possession of the ball against Canyon during the second half of the game on Thursday, Nov. 30. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

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