When Central Valley Christian’s Nicole Bouvia tumbled to the ground, the Cavalier crowd’s loud cheer quickly cut short into nervous silence.
The UC Davis recruit had clearly drawn a penalty kick for being taken down inside the box during a scoring chance, but now she was slow in getting up. Once on her feet, she clearly favored her leg as she limped to the penalty spot.
But as quickly as she sprang her run on goal, Bouvia put any fears to rest by powerfully driving her penalty shot into the back netting for her second goal of the night. She then completed a hat trick five minutes later with a third goal on a long shot from the left wing that dipped under the cross bar and inside the far post. Both goals came after the 67th minute and helped seal No. 4 CVC’s 3-0 victory in the Central Section Division III girls soccer quarterfinals against No. 5 Ridgeview Thursday night in Visalia.
But here’s the real trick. This center midfielder who scored three gorgeous goals as an attacker was recruited by UC Davis as a defender. That, after all, is her true position she played at for her club team and during her underclassmen years for CVC.
“I’m a defender,” Bouvia said. “I’ve never really played center mid or forward. (CVC head coach Jacob Degroot) moves me around a bit. It’s a good challenge. I play wherever he wants. It’s fun.”
The real challenge was for the Ridgeview defenders trying to contain Bouvia. She dominated the middle of the field with sharp passes and timely challenges well before carrying the ball forward from the center line and skipping her first score across the face of the goal from the top of the penalty area with three minutes left in the first half. Her two late goals only emphasized that very point.
“That is what she does. She’s a finisher,” Degroot said. “She’s just the rare blend of crazy athletic ability with a ton of skill. You get either or all the time, but when you get them both, it’s deadly.”
Degroot said he moved Bouvia to the center midfield position so she could do exactly what she did Thursday night – dominate the middle of the field. He expects to see her pour in the goals no matter where she lines up.
“Her real strength is attacking,” Degroot said. “You get her in space, you get her in one-v-ones, no one is going to contain her. She’s just got the quality and she’s got the speed to go with it. As an attacking defender you have to cover so much space. She has the speed to do it.”
Bouvia said she was also looking at Pepperdine, Pennsylvania, California State (Stanislaus) and Fresno Pacific, but chose UC Davis because she liked the team’s chemistry and coaches and the school’s academics.
While she was busy scoring goals, another college recruit was busy preserving the shutout in goal — for a few moments, at least.
Goalie Emily Whyte, who is committed to California State (San Bernardino), didn’t face many shots from Ridgeview. When she did, however, she was spectacular.
Two minutes after Bouvia’s penalty kick, Whyte made a fully-stretched diving save to keep out a free kick taken from just beyond the penalty area.
“We don’t take (Whyte) for granted but it would be easy to,” Degroot said. “There’s big shoes to fill there next year because she comes up with saves that most people wouldn’t come up with. As a defense it gives you a lot of confidence knowing that’s back there.”
One of those defenders, Taylor Van Den Berg, drew the especially tough assignment of covering Ridgeview’s playmaker, Vic Pyle, who Degroot said gave the Cavaliers trouble during their scoreless tie during the Garces tournament on Dec. 15, 2012. Van Den Berg denied Pyle the ball all night, limiting her to only one shot on goal. None of the Ridgeview attackers saw many chances as CVC dominated possession for most of the game. The Cavaliers now advance to the Central Section Division III semifinals, where they will face top seeded Highland (18-6-2, 9-0-1), the two-time defending Valley champions.