Ontario Senior Jazmine Ware cuts in front of a Mac-Hi player to win the ball on Saturday. The Tigers tied against the league opponent in their best defensive match of the season. (The Enterprise/Jayme Fraser)
ONTARIO - On Saturday, the Ontario girls soccer team looked like Tigers instead of kittens, breaking a four-game streak of losses.
The team earned its stripes in a 1-1 tie with Mac-Hi on Saturday by sticking to a two-fold plan: pass quickly on offense and double-team key players on defense. The Tigers had allowed 24 goals in the last four games, scoring only six themselves.
“We did a lot better today,” said Maya Luna, keeper and senior.
Players said they hope to take the positive momentum into a Saturday league match against Baker-Powder Valley, which beat them 6-1 earlier this season.
“If (Luna) keeps it up, then we’ll be fine, too,” said senior attacker Lizzy Reyes.
Luna, she said, keeps players focused and directs the defense.
“I feel like our goalie keeps the atmosphere up for all of us,” said Reyes. “When we hear her talking or screaming, it means we need to be doing our job. I feel like, whatever her mindset is, that’s what our mindset is going to be.”
Luna agreed that once her teammates found their voices to communicate better about runs and positioning, the Tigers pushed the game into the offensive half.
Early in the game, the Pioneers controlled possession and repeatedly broke into the box to take several shots.
Luna kept the Tigers in the match with her saves. On one Mac-Hi shot from the top of the box just before halftime, she leapt to tip a ball over the cross bar that otherwise would’ve gone in.
A flurry of rotating substitutions by Coach Stacey Captein focused the squad. By the end of the second half, Ontario players pressured Mac- Hi as soon as they gained possession rather than waiting for them to run the field.
When the Pioneers did punch through the midfield defense, Tiger senior defender Jazmine Ware outran them, tackled the ball and distributed it wide for quick counter attacks.
Junior attacker Deisy Montoya harassed Mac-Hi with breaking runs toward goal and several shots. In the first half, she dribbled to the corner of the box and lobbed a shot over the keeper into the net for the game’s first goal.
Ontario held the lead until Mac-Hi leveled the score early in the second half. For much of the game, the Tigers set the pace.
Reyes said the same fundamentals will be key to this weekend’s match. She said players should be “releasing the ball faster.”
“We are trying to change the game into a one-touch pass game. We’re trying to be quicker with the ball,” she said. “We were overlapping too. Like whenever someone would move somewhere else, we would cover the hole up.”
Luna added that the team has a tendency to forget its formation when tired.
“Toward the end today, we were bunching up. There’s too many in one spot,” she said.
The tie Saturday felt like a victory for a team that lost 8-0 in their last league match.
“I’m proud,” Luna said.