The Wilcox soccer squad scored early and often Monday evening in an eventual 5-2 win over Gunderson, but it was an offensive attack which didn’t land in the back of the net that was arguably the most impressive.
Leading 3-1 late in the first half, Chargers center back Catalina Rao cut off a Grizzlies attack just outside the 18-yard box. Moments later, a perfectly placed 40-yard pass down the sideline found a streaking Sara Epps. Epps had her defender beat down the sideline all the way down to the opposite goal but was forced to a tough angle, so she cut the pass back across the six-yard box. Sophia Gentry arrived to get a foot on the cross, but her shot went just over the crossbar. It wasn’t a goal, but great defense led to great offense in the type of passing sequence the Chargers have been looking for more of early on in this preseason.
“It was nice to actually see that sequence go through,” said first-year Chargers Head Coach David Rios Jr. “We’ve been struggling a little bit with teams coming right at us. It was good to see us play the ball to one another, communicating well. To see it all come together there in that sequence was beautiful to see.”
“That was a really nice because I feel like so far this season, we have struggled a little bit combining passes and building up from the back,” added captain Olivia Gentry, who finished with a goal and an assist. “It was great this game to string a lot of passes together.”
Wilcox’s other captain, Nadia Castro — who is cousins with Olivia Gentry and Sophia Gentry — adds some family chemistry to the team.
“It’s a lot of fun playing together,” said Castro. “Fun family working together. [Olivia Gentry] is so much fun playing with her, she’s an amazing player.”
Tasked with taking the majority of set pieces, Castro helped distribute the ball throughout the game to facilitate the offense. The senior, though, is far from the only one with a strong foot that can shoot from distance. The Chargers’ fourth goal came off the boot of Rachel Evans who lofted a perfectly placed shot from over 30 yards out that bent just under the crossbar into the far corner, catching the opposing keeper off her line.
“Rachel has a really strong leg,” praised Castro. “She can hit it from really far out, and that’s a really important skill set to have on this team.”
Coach Rios could be overheard prior to Evans’ goal telling her to keep shooting. Upon seeing the goal, one learned exactly why the simple advice was given.
“Rachel has a really nice shot, so we are constantly looking to get her the ball,” said Olivia Gentry. “We know she has a strong leg, more times than not she’s going to be finishing for us.”
The victory for the Chargers improves their preseason record to 2-4. They will look to pull even closer to .500 on Friday, Dec. 20 when they take on Cristo Rey.