For a team who’s won 12 consecutive games dating back to mid-December, the La Quinta High School girls’ soccer team’s CIF Southern Section Division 4 first round 2-1 home victory over Grand Terrace on Thursday afternoon was far from perfect.
The division’s top-seeded team even trailed for more than 10 minutes early on in the first half, but a squad that’s been to three semifinals in four years with 11 seniors on the roster was far from phased
“Compared to last year when we only had three seniors, you can tell this year they just don’t get rattled, and that’s going to be huge if we get into the late rounds of the playoffs, (with) having experience,” La Quinta coach Bob Quattlebaum said.
For a majority of the game, especially in the first half, the Blackhawks dominated the possession, playing within the Grand Terrace half of the field. The Titans only were able to clear before another onslaught of an offensive attack came back at them.
The visiting girls more than held their ground, though, and then in their first opportunity to sniff a goal, they pounced. After consulting with each other, the referees ruled a collision at the border of the La Quinta box occurred within the boundaries, giving the Titans a penalty kick. Aubrey Gomez fired into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute.
The Blackhawks, unfazed, continued to press, but not with too much urgency. Multiple times over the next 10 minutes, senior forward Jaylene Manion would receive the ball up the right side and with fancy footwork, evade her defender and get a ball around the front of the net.
The first several times she missed teammates heads and feet, until she didn’t.
With 15:20 to go in the half, Manion left her Grand Terrace shadow in the dust and centered to junior forward Tatiana Woodworth, missing her foot, but forcing the Titan goalkeeper out of the net. it When she didn’t grab the ball, Woodworth tapped across the goal line for the equalizer, completely changing the outlook of the game, according to the Blackhawk coach.
“I have so much confidence in this team. We’ve been down before 1-0 to Shadow Hills in league, and I’ve got confidence in these players that they can pull it out if they set their mind to it,” he said. “We still had a lot of game to play.
“I knew we were never really out of this game.”
To start the second half, the Titans upped their physicality, keeping most possessions in the middle third of the field. But once they pushed hard, La Quinta pressed harder.
With 10 minutes gone in the second period, Manion and junior forward Alexis Garcia found themselves breaking away with only two defenders and a goalie back. Manion sent a pass to Garcia in the left corner, drawing the Titan goalkeeper left with the ball, leaving plenty of space in the right of the net for Garcia to send the ball careening in for a 2-1 lead.
From there, though holding onto just a 2-1 lead, a confident Blackhawk team managed the game’s final 30 minutes for a close but decisive win.
“Of course, I’d like to have an easy game, but at the same time, you want to make sure your team is prepared for the next game,” Quattlebaum said. “This was a good, physical team, and maybe our girls needed that wake-up call.”