LEMOORE — After beginning the season 0-2 and then 1-3, Lemoore is finding its stride and downed Sunnyside 3-0 to win its third game in a row and move to over .500 for the first time this season.
The Tigers (4-3) allowed six goals in their first two games, but have only allowed one in the following four games, including three consecutive shutouts. The backline is becoming more cohesive as a unit and the senior-heavy team is starting to convert touches into goals.
“They’re finally getting a little better at just containing and slowing the attack down, rather than going in hard and trying to win the ball,” Lemoore coach Janet Brown said. “I know they like to win the ball, and I have to teach them that it’s OK to not win the ball and be a good defender.”
Brown added her backline is aggressive and likes to attack the ball, but needs them to understand when to attack and when to take a touch and play a ball wide.
“Communication, it’s been a really big key,” Tiger midfielder Litzy Pimentel said. “I feel we’re finally coming together as one and we’ve been moving the ball around really well.”
There was plenty of ball movement in Wednesday’s game against Sunnyside (1-3), but Lemoore hadn’t been able to capitalize on their possession.
Leading 1-0 in the second half and having missed a couple of easy scoring chances in the first half, Lemoore finally started playing fluidly in the final 20 minutes.
The Tigers were commanding the midfield and moving the ball to the wings, which allowed them to get up and down the line quickly. From there, the ball was either being crossed or sent back to the edge of the penalty area where an extra pass or shot was made.
“We work on spreading the field, starting from the back, pushing the midfielder all the way wide and then either a [midfielder] coming or playing it down the line,” Brown said.
And that’s exactly what Lemoore was doing in the 68th minute when they earned themselves a corner kick. Mia Sanchez put the kick right in the box and Pimentel took a touch before scoring the goal and taking a 2-0 lead.
“I saw the corner coming and, as my coaches always say, expect the ball to come to you,” Pimentel said. “I expected it to come to me and as it came, the defense missed and it just went on my leg and I just shot it and it went in.”
With a new two-goal deficit presented to them, Sunnyside pushed up and tried to mount an attack. They came close with a shot on goal — one of their few real scoring chances on the night — but goalkeeper Darianna Corona made a block and cleared the ball quickly. Corona finished with 10 saves.
Lemoore forward Kalijah Sanders was on the run from the moment the ball was cleared to try and catch Sunnyside on the counter. A through ball found its way to Sanders feet and, as Sunnyside’s goalkeeper came out, she made a beautiful touch to swerve around her and put in the empty netter.
“It was another good run,” Sander said. “I just tapped it to the side and put it in.”
It was Sanders’ second goal of the game after she got things started in the 37th minute with her first goal. Lemoore had its initial shot blocked, but Sanders followed as the trailer and put the ball in when nobody picked her up.
“She’s a pure striker,” Brown said about Sanders. “She wants to score. She’ll punch at the ball in the box … she’ll just jab at it. She has a nose for the goal.”
Lemoore finished with 17 shots, 12 shots on goal and five corner kicks to Sunnyside’s nine shots, six shots on goal and three corner kicks. The Tigers controlled possession for about 70 percent of the game.
Lemoore will try and run their winning streak to four with its first West Yosemite League game of the season next Tuesday at home against Hanford West (2-4). Game time is 6 p.m.
“Just start off with a winning streak and go on from there,” Pimentel said about Tuesday's match. “Start off the season positively.”