HANFORD — The defending East Sequoia League champions and CIF Central Section Division V runner-up Golden Bears opened their season with a 2-1 victory over the Huskies in a non-league game on Tuesday.
“It’s a start. We have a lot of new players, a lot of young players coming in again,” Sierra Pacific coach Christa Smith said. “We’re trying out some positions they haven’t played before and you can tell we’re just shaking some nerves out.”
Despite the new roster, plenty of the same faces from last year were on the field as well such as Sadie Ronquillo, Amie Walker, Olivia Fagundes and Delaney Winters. They’re just some of the core unit, which helped the Golden Bears to a 15-7-5 overall record last season.
The Huskies had 11 seniors graduate from the program last season and are almost starting from scratch. They have a couple key returners in Brooklyn Beigel and Drew Rose, but will need to become a cohesive unit throughout the preseason to improve on its 7-16-1 2017-18 campaign.
“I thought we were sloppy today,” Hanford West coach Mike Salyer said. “Our first touch was horrible, our communication needs improvement and the keeping mistake, which gets us in a hole.”
Sierra Pacific (1-0) jumped on an early mistake when Hanford West goalkeeper Arianna Gutierrez mistakenly cleared a ball to Elizabeth Statler. The Sierra Pacific freshman gathered the ball, took a dribble and shot from the top of the box for the goal in the 22nd minute.
Statler’s goal came after Sierra Pacific controlled the majority of possession through the first 20 minutes. A shot in the 15th minute went just wide and Makayla Cawley’s free kick from 30 yards in the 16th minute was on target, but landed in the hands of Gutierrez.
The Huskies had one of their better chances on a free kick from Myrka Madrigal, but Golden Bears goalkeeper Makayla Alapisco made the stop in the 33rd minute. Sierra Pacific’s backline was a bend-but-don’t-break type of defense on Tuesday.
Sierra Pacific doubled its lead in the 37th minute with a counter, which allowed them to swing the ball from the right side of the field to the left to a streaking Madison Cunha who buried the goal in the corner.
“We definitely were fighting first to every ball and were making a lot more connecting passes in the beginning,” Sierra Pacific midfielder Emma Martella said.
Entering the second half with a two-goal lead, Martella was a spark of energy over the final 40 minutes and was constantly first to the ball, as was the whole Sierra Pacific squad. Their ability to beat Hanford West to 50-50 balls allowed them to control the middle and attacking third.
The Huskies struggled against the interchanging back line of Sierra Pacific and seemed to be one step behind throughout the 80 minutes.
“Our passing and our hustling needs to get there more,” Beigel said. “Lack of motivation I feel like. From our record last year, I feel like we aren’t as motivated and we really need to get more motivated to get the ball.”
Hanford West got on the board late when a left-wing goal from Perria Edmond beat Alapisco to the corner in the 78th minute. It was only their second shot on goal in the second half.
The two teams each had 10 shots, but the Golden Bears had five shots on goal to the Huskies two and finished in space when the opportunity arose.
Sierra Pacific will take part in the Lemoore Tournament this Friday and Saturday. The Huskies will be in the Roosevelt Kamansky Tournament also beginning on Friday.