LEMOORE — Kalijah Sanders was the pure definition of the word “striker” on Monday.
The junior had a season-high four goals, with three coming in a 10-minute span, to single-handedly put the game away and help secure a 5-0 victory over Hanford West in their West Yosemite League opener.
“I really couldn’t do it without my team,” an always-humble Sanders said. “And without chemistry we wouldn’t be out here practicing hard and moving the ball around and playing our A-game.”
The Tigers also extended their winning streak to eight games during which they’ve allowed two goals and seven shutouts, including three consecutive shutouts.
Leading 1-0 at halftime, Lemoore had squandered opportunities in the first 40 minutes to take control of the game.
Lemoore (9-3, 2-0 WYL) had two corner kicks in the second minute, but neither were well placed and cleared with ease. Litzy Pimentel took the first shot of the game in the eighth minute, but it sailed wide of the goal. It wasn’t the last time Pimentel would show up in the game.
Hanford West (5-8, 0-2 WYL) tried to gain possession and push down the line, but Lemoore’s Samantha Chedester was ready for the pressure. She bodied the defender, got to the ball first and knew when to send it.
Lemoore controlled tempo for the first 10 minutes before Sanders got the scoring started. She took a through ball into the penalty area and outran a defender for a clean shot into the corner of the goal. The goalkeeper could do nothing but watch the goal sail through in the 13th minute.
The Huskies pushed back after the kickoff with Bella Hopkins getting down the line and crossing it into the box. There were no Huskies in reach of the penalty area so the ball harmlessly rolled through.
Whenever Hanford West did get the ball into the offensive zone, they became stagnant. Almost as if they were unsure how to find a scoring opportunity.
Either way, it was a small offensive spell for Hanford West as Lemoore commanded the ball soon after. Sanders had a shot from the penalty mark, but it flew over the goal. Two other shots on goal followed in the 28th and 29th minutes — both were sent back.
At halftime, Hanford West had one shot, but they were still in the game. The backline was to thank for the close score. Huskies captain Drew Rose played a big part by getting her body on forwards and attacking the ball.
“At halftime, I told my team that [Hanford West] has more heart and desire,” Lemoore coach Janet Brown said. “They were playing hard and they looked like they wanted it more than us.”
Lemoore found that desire in the 51st minute when a flurry of shots in the box led to the ball being just outside the goal. Pimentel finished the offensive sequence to give the team a 2-0 lead.
And then Sanders happened.
In the 60th minute, Sanders had two defenders draped on her when she made a quick move to create space in the penalty area and fired a goal for the 3-0 advantage. It was one of the more beautiful goals you will see in high school.
Seven minutes later, Sanders found herself in the penalty area again after receiving a through ball and buried it in the corner again. She finished off her spectacular scoring affair in the 69th minute where her speed allowed her to outrun the defenders again. Sanders was alone with the ball and scored again for a second-half hat trick
“We finally were finding the holes that we were talking about at halftime,” Brown said. “Kalijah was able to move into those slots and when she’s one-on-one with a keeper 90 percent of the time she scores.”
Sanders credited great through balls and her speed for being able to get into the penalty area and finish on net.
Lemoore finished with 18 shots, six shots on goal and six corner kicks. They held Hanford West to three shots, zero shots on goal and no corner kicks. Possession belonged to the Tigers the majority of the day and so did overall talent.
On the loss, Hanford West coach Mike Salyer said his team made mistakes, had poor marking and gave away goals.
“The first goal was a gift in the first half and I guess we were in the giving mood today and gave them a second one in the second half,” Salyer said. “That saw a letdown after that, and we didn’t recover after that second goal.”
Hanford West drops to 0-2 in the WYL and has been outscored 9-0 in its two league games. Salyer wants shots to be put on frame in order to give themselves a chance to score.
After today, each team gets a break until they resume WYL play in the new year on Jan. 3. Both teams will travel on the road with Lemoore facing Redwood and Hanford West will take on Golden West.