For roughly four weeks, from the start of their league season–Jan. 3 through Feb. 4–the Santa Clara Bruins girls soccer team allowed just three goals in nine games (4-0-4). That streak was rudely interrupted by a shocking 6-0 defeat in Palo Alto on Tuesday, but Santa Clara found a way to bounce back Friday with a 2-1 victory over the Saratoga Falcons.
Bruins Head Coach Brad Comstock didn’t find the game to be particularly pleasing, but the Bruins’ passing seemed sharper than it had in recent games. After playing the past few matches with five defenders, the Bruins played Saratoga with a more traditional four in the back and four in the midfield. According to senior midfielder Katie Bonvicino, that move paid off.
“First half we had two really good runs where we were possessing it really well and I feel like that is so much easier with just the four in the back because we have more people to play outside and up top. [It’s] way easier to possess the ball that way.”
Bonvicino would be the one to open the scoring not even five minutes into the game when she got a head on a corner delivered by junior center back Ysela Baluyot. The right-foot cross bending outward would end up about six feet in the air right in the high traffic area of the six-yard box before Bonvicino headed it home.
“I closed my eyes actually, so I think I got a little lucky,” chuckled Bonvicino about her goal. “Closed my eyes and just hit the ball with my head and it went in. Everyone then just tackled me [in celebration], I couldn’t see anyone, they were all on top of me.”
Baluyot’s assist was yet another brilliant set piece delivered by the transfer student who was forced to sit out the exhibition games prior to league season.
“It was definitely hard, last year around the same time I got injured so I had to sit out for awhile,” commented Baluyot. “It kind of brought back memories of not playing and just watching the game, but once the first league game came I was ready to rock and roll.”
“She does a great job,” chimed Comstock on Baluyot. “That was a beautiful corner.”
While she didn’t figure in on the scoring, it was another junior in Frida Ramirez who provided the Bruins a significant spark. With a versatility to play all over the field, in an attacking position on both the left and right sides, as well as defense from time to time, Ramirez is a key underrated piece of the Bruins squad. She played physical, won lots of one-on-one battles, 50-50 balls throughout the afternoon.
“Anywhere I want, anywhere I want,” repeated Comstock on where he plays Ramirez. “She’s my little energizer bunny.”
Saratoga would tie the score 1-1 with just a few minutes remaining before halftime. A corner kick was initially cleared away, but then sent back into the box way high up in the air. Perhaps Bruins goalkeeper Samantha Coelho would have been better served trying to jump and catch it as it was coming down. Instead the Falcons were able to get a head on it from right near the post for the equalizer.
In the second half the Bruins would retake the lead on a nice individual effort from senior defender Gabriella Medina at about the 57th minute mark. Activating from her right-back spot, Medina made a few nice plays before lofting a shot that the Saratoga keeper was only able to get a piece of before it bounced up off the crossbar and down over the line.
“I took the ball down the line and it kind of got jumbled up between a few players,” recalled Medina on the lead up to her goal. “[After getting free] I saw the goal and there was a man coming so I just took the left-foot shot.”
Speaking of the left-foot shot, the Bruins are fortunate they were able to get their two goals from other sources, as leading scorer Ellie Mujushi probably should have used her left foot on her two best opportunities. On one run in particular the senior tried to cut back to her right foot, but that delay allowed a Saratoga defender to catch up and block the shot.
While the Bruins held decent possession throughout the game, things did get unnecessarily dicey in the last few minutes. Somewhat surprisingly, Comstock had a rather aggressive strategy on two late corner kicks at the Saratoga end of the field. With one center back in Baluyot taking the corner and the other center back Haley Levene making a run into the box, the Bruins had only junior midfielder Maddie Ambelang back around midfield. Saratoga would nearly take advantage of Santa Clara’s aggressive push as it looked like Ambelang had to defend a two-on-one counter attack all by herself. Senior defender Megan Sequeira hustled back to help force the eventual shooter to a tough angle, but the opportunity was definitely a bit too close for comfort for Bruins fans.
Santa Clara has two games remaining with rematches against Mountain View and Homestead before league season concludes and the playoffs begin.