LEMOORE — The Hanford girls are back and they look better than ever.
The Bullpups (2-0) opened Friday’s Lemoore High School Lady Tiger Classic with a no-doubt 3-0 victory over Arvin (0-2). Third-year coach DelRay Dias attributed his team’s dominant effort to keeping possession of the ball.
“We’re first to the ball probably like 95 percent of the time,” Dias said. “The passing was good at times and at times we had some points where we could have done a lot better. We created tons of goal-scoring opportunities we just couldn’t finish.”
Hanford could have easily had three or four more goals if not for some misplayed balls, a pass instead of a shot or a bad touch, but the team did their job and shut down Arvin’s offense completely.
Dias’ midfield controlled the game and rarely allowed balls behind them. Junior midfielder Skyler Martinez scored twice and Isabella Schroder, a freshman, added the third goal.
“I think that we still have a long way to go,” Martinez said. “We’re playing really good so far, but I think we can improve a lot more as a team. We’re passing really well … we just need to finish our shots.”
In the 12th minute, Martinez took a pass and calmly dribbled past three defenders to make her way to the top of the penalty area before striking the ball and finding the corner for the 1-0 advantage.
Just a couple minutes later, Martinez found herself in a similar situation. She took a pass just outside the penalty area and took a dribble before taking a shot. Arvin’s goalkeeper got a hand on the ball, but it wasn’t enough as it ricocheted in for the goal in the 16th minute.
Hanford’s 2-0 lead seemed insurmountable at that point since Arvin hadn’t even garnered a shot let alone a shot on goal. Midfielder/forward Ashlyn Isenberg almost added to the lead in the 19th minute when she had a point-blank shot, but a diving stop from Arvin’s goalkeeper kept it a two-goal deficit.
Only 30-minute halves were played since the tournament consists of 16 teams and multiple games per day. As Hanford went into the half, they owned the ball at least 90 percent of the time in the first half and hadn’t allowed a shot on goal.
“We got open for each other. We were making more runs than we ever had, so far, this season,” Martinez said. “We’re working really well together.”
As well as Hanford played in the first half, they were even better in the second. Not only did Bullpups goalkeeper Hanna Murrieta not register a single save, but she only had to touch the ball three times.
Hanford controlled the tempo, swung the ball and opened the field repeatedly and was able to beat Arvin’s defenders down the line to set up crossing attempts.
After one of those runs down the line, Hanford earned its first corner kick of the day in the 45th minute. Schroder took the kick and forward Galilea Jimenez got her head on the ball, but a diving stop kept the would-be goal from bouncing in.
Another corner kick was awarded to the Bullpups, but instead of Schroder taking it, Dias subbed Martinez and told her to take it. The move paid off as her corner kick found Schroder’s foot on the back post for the 3-0 lead in the 49th minute.
“There were a lot of girls in the box … it just kind of landed right on my right foot and just right in the corner,” Schroder said with a smile.
With the final whistle, Hanford put on an offensive and defensive play to definitely be happy about. They put up 15 shots, 13 shots on goal and four corner kicks compared to none for Arvin. The Bears didn’t record a shot on goal or even threaten to score.
Hanford defender Kaylyn Strickland was a big part of that as she stopped every ball that came back to her and cleared the threat or found her teammates to give them a scoring chance.
Murrieta earned herself the easiest clean sheet of her life and Hanford is off to an excellent start for the 2017-2018 season. Their excellent start began with a 6-0 road win over Washington Union on Tuesday.
In that contest, Madison Stewart had a hat trick, while Schroder, Martinez and Isenberg each added a goal. Still, Dias sees and wants the girls to continue to improve.
“We have some things that we have got to tighten up in the back … but other than that great, clean game,” Dias said.