Hart Indians girls’ soccer dominated its league match at Valencia on Thursday.
The Indians controlled the flow of the game from the jump and won the possession battle with ease en route to a 3-0 victory over the Vikings.
Indians captain Ariana Salvador led the charge with one goal and an assist on the night. Salvador rocketed in the first score of the day in the ninth minute of action. The Vikings (6-7, 3-4) made the initial stop but were unable to recover or clear the ball before Salvador tracked it down and netted the 1-0 goal.
Hart (14-2-2, 6-0-1) opened both halves with multiple chances in the first few minutes of action. However, after a back-and-forth first half, in which Valencia was able to move the ball around, Hart took control in the second.
The Indians pushed the ball up relentlessly after forcing countless turnovers at midfield. The away team hammered in chance after chance before putting the game out of reach.
Valencia goalkeeper Rebecca Ferguson had another standout game against Hart. Ferguson got the initial save off a deep outside shot but the ball tipped over the keeper where junior Adrielle Salvador was ready to head in the 2-0 score in the 53rd minute.
Having just one Salvador in Ariana, a Filipino Soccer Youth National teamer, was already a problem for opposing teams. Now Hart head coach Brett Croft has two Salvadors on varsity.
“Adrielle has stepped up her game this year,” Croft said. “I think last year she was more of a defensive presence and possession-minded player. She still has those two things but on top of that, now she’s added a little bit of change of speed and a little bit of attacking prowess to the game, so her and Ari are linking up better than ever.”
Hart edged past Valencia, 2-1, in the teams’ meeting earlier this season. To get the shutout win against the standout Ferguson and keeping Valencia goal machine Sophia Rooney off the board was everything Croft wanted to see out of his team.
“Fergie played the game of her life against us at home and she had another great game today,” Croft said. “Rooney’s a very dangerous attacking player, so for us to put it together today was awesome. Obviously we wanted to win in a shutout. That’s what we’re going for, but to get a couple goals on top of the win, that’s awesome.”
The captain then set up the final score of the day off a corner kick that found senior Sophia Willis for the third goal.
Both Salvadors, Willis, Ayla Noble and senior Natalie Mejia, were key in the relentless attack.
“I think we had an important motive of how we want to start the second half of the season,” Mejia said. “Our first game against them, we only won by one goal. We wanted to show we could dominate. We wanted a shutout and we got our shutout. So I think that just demonstrates how we were going to carry out the rest of the season.”
Mejia, a St. Mary’s commit, was constantly moving throughout the match, whether it was moving the ball at the midfield or flanking on the wing.
Ariana, a Pepperdine commit, also made her presence felt all over the field. The senior made plays throughout the night on defense, at midfield and obviously on the attack. The captain’s instincts on the ball never cease to amaze her longtime coach.
“What do you say about Ari except that she has that killer instinct,” Croft said. “She understands when she’s close to goal, when there’s an opportunity to score and she’s going to do whatever she can to put it in the back of the net. I’ve been at Hart for eight years, and I’ve watched the Foothill league for 10. She’s the best player I’ve ever seen … She’s an exceptional leader. And for me, I’m just super thankful I have the opportunity to coach her. What a remarkable person she is on top of being a fantastic player.”
The game could’ve easily gotten out of hand if Ferguson hung her head, but the keeper stood tall for all 80 minutes and registered eight saves.
The Vikes never really had any chances to strike, leading to Hart’s ninth win in a row and sixth straight shutout.
“This year, we have a couple young players but I feel like everyone has a passion and drive,” Ariana said. “They really want to make this a great year for the seniors. I feel like the chemistry and the work ethic from every player is there, whether they’re playing or not. Every single person works hard.”
Hart is aiming for its third straight Foothill League title but still has big playoff aspirations. The program’s recent success has landed the Indians in Division 1, where they feel they can still compete for a CIF championship.
“We just want to carry on with more shutouts, that’s our main goal,” Mejia said. “Going into CIF, shutouts are so key and very important. I think we also want to hone in on finishing our chances. We’re not going to get that many in playoffs so we’re focusing in league on finishing all the chances we get; capitalizing on corners, free kicks, through balls, crosses, everything.”
Valencia will look to bounce back on Tuesday in a home match with Saugus at 5 p.m. Hart will get its league bye and be off until Thursday, when the team returns home to host Golden Valley at 3:15 p.m.
“We want to peak right at the end so when we go into CIF we’re ready to go,” Croft said. “We’re not discrediting the incredible talent and teams that are in the Foothill League, but we’re trying to prepare so when we get to CIF we can do something there. So even when we are up in games, we’re talking about, ‘Would that work against schools that we’re going to see in this Division 1 playoff,’ which is the cream of the crop, so we’re building towards there. We’re going in the right direction, and I’m thankful for the players that I have.”