OAKHURST — From looking down and out during the regular season, to getting a resounding 6-0 CIF Central Section Division III first-round playoff victory on Wednesday — the highs and lows for the Tigers this year have been a rollercoaster ride.
“It clicked for us,” Lemoore forward Chloe Chedester said. “We looked confident and we passed the ball and we knew where to place the ball … We knew how to put it away today. It just all went so well for us.”
Finally healthy, the ninth-seeded Tigers (12-10-3, 3-7-2 WYL) put on a show as they took down the eighth-seeded Yosemite Badgers.
With the Tigers’ six goals in the first round, they have now scored a combined nine goals in their last two games after scoring 10 goals in their previous 10 games. The team also recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time since Dec. 16 and 18.
The Tigers look like a brand new squad with how they trusted each other’s play on the field Wednesday night.
“They moved the ball. They played as a team,” Lemoore coach Valarie Burkett said. “They came prepared wanting the win.”
Chloe was the first to strike for the Tigers. Her sister, defender Sami Chedester, put a clean through ball down the line and past a Yosemite defender and it was all the daylight Chloe needed.
“My sister had an amazing pass, so that was a through ball for me and I love through balls,” Chloe said. “I sprinted on to that ball, I knew where I was going, I took it to the center and I just placed it into the corner.”
Chloe gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute and the rout was on.
Lemoore midfielder Roxana Ortiz followed in the 19th minute with a ball into the box. Ortiz found space and fired into the left corner for the two-goal lead.
“I sort of just wanted to pull the trigger as soon as I saw a spot in the goal,” Ortiz said.
Just nine minutes later, it was Lemoore forward Kalijah Sanders’ turn to get in on the scoring. The senior striker picked up a through ball just outside the box and took a touch that put the ball in the goalkeeper’s hands. But it wasn’t fielded cleanly and the alert Sanders was able to poke the ball into the net from 15 yards out.
After 40 minutes, Lemoore led 3-0 and was in complete control. It was their largest lead at the half since they led by the same margin against Mt. Whitney back on Jan. 5.
“In the warmup I noticed the intensity was different,” Lemoore coach Janet Brown said. “They just looked focused. It looked like they really had purpose.”
The second half was no different. The girls played as if it was nil-nil the entire game and with a fire not seen earlier in the season.
It was Chloe, again, just three minutes into the second half. Lemoore’s Mia Sanchez put a perfect corner kick into the box and Chloe elevated above the defense to put in the header for the 4-0 lead.
“I went into that header knowing, I was like, ‘I’m getting a goal,’” Chloe said. “Mia has amazing corner kicks, so I just kind of snuck by that defender and I jumped right at that right timing … so I just put it away and I was super stoked about that.”
Sanders added another in the 46th minute with a couple passes between her and Chloe. It led to space in the box where she drilled one near post for the goal.
After each goal, the girls celebrated one another. They jumped into each other’s arms, slapped hands and cheered for each other. The team was all smiles throughout the night.
Ortiz capped off the game on a corner in the 77th minute. The ball bounced off Chloe’s leg to Ortiz on the back post and she didn’t miss.
“I was in the right spot at the right time,” Ortiz said.
As much as the offense did, the defense was just as great. Sami, Aliyah Reynoso, Jessica Padilla and the rest all did their job on defense.
No through balls ever made it past them, marks were hardly missed and they knew when to clear the ball and where.
Yosemite forward Peyton Garner — the state’s sixth leading scorer with 48 goals — was a non-factor in the game. She had one good look in the 38th minute when Garner fired a rocket off a free kick, but Lemoore goalkeeper Darianna Corona dropped to her knees and made the save.
The defense completely took her out of the game with help by Reilly Nava and Reynoso who marked her well. The team shut out an opponent who was averaging 4.2 goals per game.
At the end of the day, Lemoore was just too athletic. Chloe’s speed in the middle of the field killed defenders. Jaena Campos and Sanders forced the issue down the line and the team wanted it more.
“[The win] gives us a lot of confidence and confidence is key,” Chloe said. “I believe that we can take it all. We have so much talent and if we just click like we did tonight — and just know where to go, know where to pass it to, know where to put it away and finish — we can do it. I have so much confidence in all of our team’s talent to take Independence and have a good game.”
The Tigers will get a tall task in facing the No. 1-seeded Independence Falcons. The South Yosemite League champions were 15-3-1 this season and a perfect 10-0 in league.
They ended the regular season on a nine-game winning streak and had a first-round bye. The Falcons haven’t lost a game since Dec. 2 when they lost 4-1 to Centennial.
“I think the girls will carry this momentum into playing the No. 1 seed,” Burkett said. “Let’s hope that they can continue with what they did tonight.”