HANFORD — As Hanford West came off the pitch, positive vibes were buzzing around the team.
Never mind the fact they had just lost 4-0 to Redwood in its first West Yosemite League match of the season. The Huskies knew what kind of fight they had just put up on Thursday night.
“We definitely knew coming in it was going to be a challenge, but we held it together, we had a lot of great pressuring, great talking,” Hanford West captain Bella Hopkins said. “I think the outcome’s a lot better than last year, and I’m really excited to see where we’re going this year.”
Last season, Hanford West finished 1-15-1 overall and winless in the WYL. This season they’ve already garnered three wins and have an experienced squad with 11 seniors. Add five juniors to the mix and the Huskies look like a team that can definitely put together some good wins in league.
“They’re starting to do what we’ve been working on in practice,” Hanford West coach Mike Salyer said. “I thought our first-half effort was outstanding … I was overall pleased with the game tonight.”
Hanford West (3-5, 0-1 WYL) saw pressure from Redwood as the match started, but rebuked early attempts. A shot on goal in the fourth minute was stopped nicely by Hanford West goalkeeper Desiree Andrade. It was just the beginning of a great day defensively for Andrade.
Redwood (7-3-2, 2-0 WYL) earned a corner kick in the seventh minute, but Andrade came up with the save again on a shot from inside the penalty area. Andrade cleared the ball to teammate Alexis Martinez who made a great run down the line.
Martinez got past one defender and took a shot from 20 yards out, but Redwood’s goalkeeper got a hold of it. Brooklyn Beigel had her chance in the 18th minute when she found a bit of breathing room from 20 yards out for a shot, but it sailed over the goal.
After multiple stops, Hanford West finally made a mistake on a misplayed ball in the penalty area. Andrade came out of her net, but couldn’t make the stop allowing for an easy goal by the Rangers.
The 1-0 deficit didn’t deter the Huskies in the least. On the very next possession, Hanford West attacked the penalty area with a cross from Hopkins. A flurry of shots followed.
The goalkeeper made a stop, which bounced right back to Hanford West. Another shot, but this time with the goalkeeper on the ground, a Redwood defender saved a goal with her body. Alyssa Yrigollen then got her foot on it, but the kick went over the goal.
It wasn’t known at the time, but it was as close as Hanford West would come to scoring a goal. Andrade made another great save before the half as a Redwood forward came at her in a one-on-one situation.
Hanford West was completely positive at halftime, communicating with each other and what they saw on different runs. They knew they had played an excellent half and they had. The game should have easily been tied if not for some spectacular Redwood defense.
“We definitely stayed first to the ball,” Hopkins said. “We were constantly pressuring them. We weren’t letting them get in front of us the whole time.”
The second half was a bit of a different story. The Huskies tried to come out aggressive and attack immediately, but the Redwood backline was too much.
Hanford West did manage its first corner kick of the night in the 46th minute, but it was an easy stop for the goalkeeper. What was once an alive and communicating team seemed to be a bit flat in the second half.
“It might have been fatigue, but we’re going to work on that in practice,” Hopkins said about the second-half letdown.
In the 62nd minute, Redwood bent a goal in from the corner of the penalty area for the 2-0 lead. From there, the Rangers really controlled possession and the midfield.
Hanford West got few opportunities to even have a run down the field the rest of the game and Redwood would score again in the 73rd and 78th minute, but the girls had plenty to take away from the game.
One clear example of that was Andrade’s strong goalkeeping even in the face of a tough challenge. She made seven saves in the second half and a total of 12 saves on the night.
“She had a very good game,” Salyer said. “She’s making huge, huge strides. She’s improving daily, and I’m happy with where it’s going. You can see her confidence level rising.”
Hanford West’s communication was also a strong point on the field. The girls constantly called numbers and knew where each girl would be. It just wasn’t enough against Redwood on Thursday.
“[Redwood’s] pressure on the back was really good,” Hopkins said. “The ball might have been in the air too many times, but if we get it on the floor, it’ll be easy goals.”
Hanford West has a tough couple days in terms of its schedule. The team plays on Saturday and then a rescheduled game against Lemoore (5-3) on Monday at 3 p.m.
“We’re still a work in progress,” Salyer said. “It’s improving.”