Shadow Hills soccer shuts down DHS

Shadow Hills soccer shuts down DHS

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Shadow Hills soccer shuts down DHS

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INDIO

It was supposed to be a tight battle of two of the three teams tied for the lead in the De Anza League, the winner taking a two-point advantage in the standings with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

And for 40 minutes Wednesday, the match between Shadow Hills and Desert Hot Springs was as close as the billing, a single goal separating the two teams into the intermission.

Then the second half began.

Just four minutes into the second half, the Knights turned a close match into a runaway, eventually winning 5-0, to firmly establish themselves as the leader in the league down the stretch.

The Knights had a modest 2-3 record before new head coach Derek Orkney took over the program in late December. In his first game at the helm, Shadow Hills looked lost, he said, losing 7-0 to Redlands East Valley.

“The Redlands game, everybody was just chasing (the ball) around and we didn’t seem to have a purpose,” Orkney said, noting that players now better understand where they need to be and what they are expected to do.

“Each game we’re improving in that,” he added.

After that game, players took a long look in the mirror and began taking practices more seriously in an effort to shoot sweet life back into their season.

“When we started, it was a little more joking around,” senior forward David Diaz said. “But we take every practice serious now. We started our season thinking about making third place. Now we want that first place.”

Since that embarrassing loss on Jan. 6, the Knights (5-6, 3-1 De Anza) have won three of four league games.

Diaz credits the style of play Orkney implemented upon his arrival. It’s predicated on controlling and sharing the ball as opposed to showcasing one or two players, which has opened up the offense and in turn taken pressure off the defense.

That was evident early against Desert Hot Springs (6-9-2, 2-2). Diaz got the Knights on the board in the ninth minute with a goal after four different players handled the ball in the open field. Diaz slipped the ball just past DHS goalkeeper Ignacio Zavala, and the Knights controlled the tempo from there.

The Golden Eagles had good shot opportunities as well, though the Shadow Hills defense largely kept the pressure off goalie Angel Villalobos.

The difference in the game was how well the Knights capitalized on the looks they were given at the goal. They found the back of the net on 45 percent (5-of-11) of their shots, with four different players notching goals.

After halftime, Jose Hernandez scored twice within a span of 90 seconds to put Shadow Hills up 3-0. Chris Zapata and Hector Poblano added two more goals for good measure.

The way they handled the Golden Eagles suggests perhaps Orkney’s squad has turned a corner.

“I think we’ve been the more skillful team in all the games,” Orkney said. “But just finding a way to use it effectively has been our struggle. We’re slowly coming around to it.”

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