HANFORD — Coming off a 1-0 loss in their season opener, Hanford, a team not accustomed to losing, came out focused and with a goal on Tuesday: attack.
The Bullpups did just that from the opening touch as fullback Kaylyn Strickland scored in the second minute, midfielder Skyler Martinez added another two minutes later and the Bullpups cruised to a dominating 3-0 victory over Fresno at Douty Field.
“Our last game wasn’t how we wanted it to go, so we needed those two goals to set us back up to where we wanted to be,” Hanford forward Sheyenne Hodge said. “[Last week’s loss] gave us a wake-up call and we took that as motivation to come on the field and do better than we did before.”
Dias’ team finished with 41 shots, 17 shots on goal and garnered 11 corner kicks in their home opener. Hanford hasn’t lost a home match since Feb. 16, 2017 when they lost 2-1 in overtime to Liberty in the CIF Central Section Division III quarterfinals. They went 9-0-1 last season.
The Bullpups (1-1) displayed an arsenal of weapons of offense and had 90 percent possession throughout a well-controlled 80 minutes. They were first to the ball and their touches were accurate.
“We’ve been pushing the last couple days at practice of being first to the ball, don’t let the other team get the ball, don’t let the other team have time,” Hanford coach DelRay Dias said. “Playing a whole 40-minute half like that was great and then coming out the second half and we played 30 minutes that was just domination.”
The first 25 minutes of the game showcased a relentless attack from the Bullpups. They had 20 shots, six corner kicks and the two goals.
Strickland’s came on a ball trying to be cleared by the Warriors. The sophomore took a dribble and cracked a shot from the top of the box for her first goal of the season.
Martinez had a through ball find her in the Warriors’ goal box as she and the goalkeeper collided, but not before she got just enough of the ball for it to slowly roll in in the fourth minute.
“We were just making really good runs,” Martinez said. “Everybody was moving, every time someone had the ball there was always multiple options for them. When we score right in the beginning of the game that defines the rest of the game for us.”
During the first half, the Bullpups were efficient in shutting down passing lanes, cutting off goal kicks and winning 50/50 balls. Madison Stewart and Hodge controlled the attacking third with multiple shots on goal.
Stewart had two shots blocked in the goal box, while Hodge had two blocked and another sail just wide of the net. Fresno goalkeeper Jada Powell made seven great saves, but the Bullpups still led 2-0 at halftime.
“The girls were chomping at the bit,” Dias said. “This team isn’t used to losing, so when you lose a game and you come back, it’s a taste in the mouth. I said to them … ‘Hey tonight’s about domination. Let’s dominate and let’s kill.’”
Sophomore Isabella Schroder was a lightning rod in the midfield and used her unmatched speed to move past defenders in the second half. She beat the defense down the line and crossed the ball, which led to shots on goal or corner kicks.
After coming close in the first half, Hodge, the 2017-18 West Yosemite League Offensive Player of the Year, finally scored her first goal of the season in the 58th minute. Martinez’s corner kick found an unmarked Hodge at the top of the box and she put a shot in the corner for the 3-0 lead.
“I took a touch realizing no one was on me and I just volleyed it in,” Hodge said.
The Warriors’ offense showed life in the 34th minute and in the last 10 minutes of the second half, but the Bullpups’ defense turned them away each time. Fresno had just three shots and two shots on goal, which goalkeeper Melody Martinez easily saved.
The Bullpups will take part in the Pitman High Varsity Soccer Tournament beginning on Friday and ending on Saturday. Their first opponent is Turlock (4-0-1) on Friday at 11 a.m.