Thursday night’s match between Canyon Cowboys girls’ soccer and the Castaic Coyotes was even as it gets, displaying the parity in the Foothill League.
The Cowboys and Coyotes drew, 1-1, and were deadlocked for all but four minutes of the physical league matchup at Canyon High School.
After a scoreless first half, Castaic (5-6-3, 2-2-1) jumped ahead on a goal from Leila Sadra. Castaic’s Pyper Ormes found some space on the right wing, where she pushed the ball up and delivered a perfect cross to Sadra for the goal in the 55th minute.
Canyon (3-3-1, 2-2-1) needed just a few minutes to respond and answered with a score from Jiliana DiDomenico. The Cowboys’ corner kick went exactly where it was supposed to, as senior Bailey Williamson got under the ball and fired in a header on target. The shot was saved but not recovered as the ball tipped around before DiDomenico found it and drilled the equalizer in the 59th minute.
Canyon had more chances to score throughout the game despite Castaic winning the possession battle after a lopsided first half with the ball. Williamson and DiDomenico were key in the quick counters, as the two played back on defense and found ways to steal the ball and dribble back into Coyote territory.
Canyon’s Chloe Miller somehow broke through two defenders at midfield and delivered a solid pass upfield to Williamson. The Canyon senior had a clean look right outside the box but her shot sailed just over the crossbar.
Williamson had another chance late in the game but had her shot go just wide of the post.
Castaic displayed solid passing with tons of consecutive quality touches throughout the game. The visiting team nearly stole a goal on a quick counter where Raqel Gonzales stole the ball and passed to Sadra, who drove nearly half of the field before hitting Kennedy Arnold, who just missed the shot on target.
The Coyotes stayed on the attack through their passing and thanks to early Cowboy miscommunications.
“Everything went OK. The tie is fine even though we kind of dominated it a little more than the other team,” Castaic coach Jose Leon said.
Canyon coach Leonardo Neveleff’s young team is still coming along with younger players adjusting to the varsity level.
“The miscommunication, it’s a brand new team with new players joining us and it’s been a little harder for them to adjust to the seniors,” Neveleff said. “They’ve been playing for three years. So, it just takes a while to gel, but they’re learning and hopefully we don’t make those same mistakes.”
Neveleff believes his squad is still on the right track and will be able to finish in the top four in league and make the postseason for the third straight season. However, there will be plenty to work on in the meantime.
“We didn’t play as planned,” Neveleff said. “We had a very different game in mind to play but Castaic countered our game plan that we had and we couldn’t adjust to them. So that’s where we struggled. It took us a long time to adjust and we didn’t have the same intensity that we had on Tuesday. But fortunately, we had the goal, the equalizer and we managed the game better in the second half. That’s my evaluation right now. A lot of things to fix.”
Castaic also has playoffs on its mind and will hope to clinch the program’s first postseason berth this year. Both teams sit tied for fourth with an even 2-2-1 record.
“I think we’re going to be ready,” Leon said. “I’m aiming to get at least another three wins. And I think if I get that, we will probably make it to the playoffs.”
The two teams will meet again in late January and, with every match having critical playoff implications from here out, the match could be another physical battle.
Both teams will close out the first half of league play on Tuesday as Canyon heads to Hart while Castaic returns home to host Saugus. Both matches are slated for 3:15 p.m.