GSoc: Chargers send message with win over Dons

There was a definite sense of urgency in the play of the Dos Pueblos girls soccer team on Tuesday night in its match against crosstown rival Santa Barbara.

Going into the match with a 1-1-1 record in Channel League, the Chargers were determined to finish the first round of league play on a positive note while sending a message that they are still a contender for the title.

They accomplished those goals with a 2-1 victory at Scott O’Leary Stadium. Ady Willett scored just before the halftime whistle and added a second goal in the 62nd minute as the Chargers handed Santa Barbara its first loss in league play.

The result leaves the Dons at 3-1-0 in league and Dos Pueblos with a 2-1-1 record.

“We still have hopes of winning Channel League for the first time for DP. We want to get that going, so that’s why we needed this win,” said senior forward Rachel Smith, who assisted on the first goal.

The match was evenly played until the 25th minute of the first half. That’s when Dos Pueblos put its foot on the gas and took control of the run of play. Saves by Dons’ goalkeeper Ali Tro on a hard shot by Smith and headers by Jamie Benedetto and Kayla Klopstein kept the game scoreless.

Jackie Lopez, playing in place of an absent center back Erin Graf, also blocked a shot.

On the one quality chance the Dons got in the last 15 minutes of the half, DP goalkeeper Anna Rudeen stopped Megan Flynn at the near post.

The teams appeared to headed to a scoreless first half until the USC-bound Smith got behind the Santa Barbara defense on a long diagonal pass from the left wing. With Tro and defender Annie deBruynkops rushing toward her, Smith got off a shot and angled it to the far post. The ball hit the post and, before another Dons defender could clear it, Willett rushed in and pounded it into the back of the net with about 40 seconds left in the half.

“The girl kind of blocked it and I just followed it up,” said Willet.

“Sometimes you get unlucky and hit the post, but that’s why you have a team backing you up and getting the ball in,” said Smith.

The momentum of that goal carried over into the second half, as Dos Pueblos kept the pressure on the Santa Barbara defense. The Chargers were rewarded with a second goal. It was started by a long throw-in by Malia Morales from the left side of the attacking third of the field. Smith went up for a header at the near post but the ball eluded her and fell to a wide-open Willett. The sophomore used her knee to knock it in, giving the Chargers a commanding 2-0 lead.

“Malia has a great throw and I just had to finish it, and I kneed it in,” said Willett.

“DP is a class act,” Santa Barbara coach Jeff Johnson said. “Every single player is a high-level player, high-level athlete. It’s a battle. Not only do you have to deal with their physicality but they can play the game too.”

Santa Barbara, however, still had plenty of fight in it.

“What I told the ladies was any team could have walked off at that point,” Johnson said. “These ladies, they stayed determined and stayed on course. We got back in the game and made it exciting.”

The Dons scored in the 76th minute when Dos Pueblos couldn’t clear the ball out of its box. Flynn held the ball in and fed Katie Joseff, who beat a couple of defenders and drilled a shot past Rudeen.

The Dons had a chance to tie the score in the final seconds as Joseff broke in again, but her shot missed wide.

“We will learn from this defeat and come back ready to fight on Thursday,” Johnson said. “DP earned a great victory tonight and made us work for everything. They should feel proud of their victory.

“It will be a tight chase for the title and this (result) keeps everything close.”