prep soccer

Big first half lifts Crusaders past Cubs in soccer

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Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – The Crusaders defeated the Cubs 5-1 in Eureka on Friday.

By Ray Hamill — The St. Bernard’s girls scored four times in the first half on the way to a 5-1 over visiting South Fork at Crusader Field on Friday afternoon.

And the Crusaders showcased their depth with five different players getting their names on the scoresheet.

For all their possession, however, St. Bernard’s could have scored a lot more and left a lot of chances out on the field, a result of some wayward shooting and a well-organized South Fork defense.

“We had a lot of chances and on any other day we probably would have put them in the back of the net,” St. Bernard’s assistant coach Phil Rouse said.

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South Fork’s Harley Bates, left, and St. Bernard’s Mackenzie Finck (15) battle for possession.

To be fair to a very inexperienced Cubs side, the defense turned in a very disciplined and organized second half, holding the home team without a goal until the final seconds.

In particular, the central pairing of sophomores Jaylenne Harris and Alahni Christianson continually frustrated the St. Bernard’s attack, tightening up after the interval and giving them little space to exploit.

“To hold them the way we did in the second half was pretty good,” South Fork head coach Ann Constantino said. “We’re improving every game.”

The Cubs are one of the least experienced sides to ever play local prep soccer, with a combined nine seasons of varsity experience between the 16 players.

Only five of their players have ever even played at this level, with a couple of seniors who each have three seasons under their belts, and three underclassmen with one season each.

And naturally, the coach and players are still figuring out positions.

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Emma Wilson (11) of St. Bernard’s  tries to find a way past South Fork’s Kylie Messenger on Friday.

Crusaders pressure

The St. Bernard’s girls dominated possession throughout, particularly in the opening half, when they sent wave after wave of attack and should have been more than four up at the interval.

Rachel Rodrigues opened the scoring 15 minutes in, running on to a wonderful through ball from Tiersa Grummert and shooting low to beat the keeper.

St. Bernard’s senior defender Jasa Sisemore, who was once again the best player on the field, made it 2-0 on a well-taken penalty kick five minutes later, before Fa’apisa Fonoti added a third when the ball fell to her inside the penalty area from a corner kick and she made no mistake from close range.

Influential senior midfielder Ally Del Grande made it 4-0 with her team’s best goal of the day right at halftime, when she picked up a poor clearance at the edge of the penalty area and rifled a shot into the roof of the net.

It appeared as if the home team would add to its tally after the break, but the Cubs settled down defensively.

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St. Bernard’s Maddie Costa is congratulated by teammates after her late strike.

Fullbacks Franny Genolio and Hailie Heaslip helped anchor a disciplined performance at the back.

With their defense gaining confidence, the Cubs scored against the run of play 12 minutes into the period, when senior co-captain Kylie Messenger caught the Crusaders on the counter and capped the move with a wonderful strike from a tight angle to find the back of the net.

Messenger was one of the Cubs best performers.

Harley Bates and Marian Del Rio each also impressed for the visitors, as did goalkeeper Lyndsee Brewer.

The Crusaders had a late flurry of chances in the second half, capped by a Maddie Costa goal in the final minute of play.

Along with Del Grande, freshmen Emma Wilson and Shelby Jordan each had good games for St. Bernard’s, keeping the Cubs defenders on their toes throughout.

With the win, the Crusaders improve to 7-2-1 (2-1-1 in league), while the Cubs drop to 0-4 overall and 0-3 in league.