Dons run over Chargers, while Chargers have to run

Even if you showed up 10 minutes after Thursday’s game at Girsh Park had ended, you’d know right away who won.

Santa Barbara High’s girls soccer team had a brief meeting before packing up and leaving.

Dos Pueblos was running sprints and doing push-ups.

The Dons played a rock-solid all-around game, controlling possession and getting all the good looks in a 2-0 victory which decided who would take sole possession of first place in the Channel League. Dena Slaff scored off of a cross from Sheridan Spivey just past the halfway point of the first half, and Brittany Couture converted on a penalty kick midway through the second.

“We tied them last time, so we really wanted to beat them this time. It’s a pretty big rivalry so it felt really good,” said Slaff, a sophomore.

It surely didn’t feel good to be a Chargers player afterwards, as DP coach Molly Imel led a rigorous post-game workout to hammer home her philosophy about leaving everything on the field.

“I’m very disappointed. I feel they did not muster everything they could to the final whistle,” she said. “That’s what I’m trying to change with this program. It doesn’t change overnight, but I think they’ve worked extremely hard to get to this place, and the stage was set for them to put on a good show and really get the job done today — they didn’t.”

Goalie Meagan Bellefeuille made some great saves of Santa Barbara breakaways in the final minutes and was a big bright spot for the Chargers. Imel also credited Amber Altavilla for a strong game.

Santa Barbara lost star forward Briana Lopez in the opening minutes with a recurring knee injury, and she was walking on it very gingerly after the game. Despite losing her for the rest of the day, coach Brian Lloyd didn’t doubt the rest of his offense.

“I know we have other girls that can score,” he said. “The fact that we haven’t done it a lot in games this season, sure, yeah, it’s a little nerve-wracking for her to go down. At the same time, if we’re gonna advance in the playoffs, which now we’re looking a lot better for, we need other girls to finish.”

Santa Barbara passed effectively and maintained possession well enough to make the extra pass and get good looks.

Slaff, one of the smallest players on the field, found herself in great position right in front of the goal when Spivey sent it in from the baseline.

“She’s just tenacious. She works really hard and goes in on every tackle. I don’t think she ever looks at anyone and thinks they’re too big or too strong,” said Lloyd.

Santa Barbara’s back line, anchored by returning Channel League Defensive MVP Kai Miller, kept the Chargers from getting any exceptional looks in the box.

“We put together some good stuff today, but we just weren’t able to get the job done, and the girls really needed this,” said Imel. “I’m disappointed, but above all I’m disappointed for them.”

The Chargers (7-7-6, 2-3-1 Channel League) host Buena on Tuesday, their Senior Day. The Dons (5-2-5, 3-0-2) host a big match against San Marcos on Monday.

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