Pumas remain undefeated

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Connecting on a half dozen passes for a game-winning goal with seconds to play, Maria Carrillo’s girls played best when it counted most Wednesday to hold off Ursuline, 2-1, in North Bay League soccer.

Maria Carrillo's Katie Mohr goes up for the ball against Ursuline's Belden Long during the game held at Maria Carrillo High School, Oct. 13, 2010. Carrillo won 2-1. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

After the Bears finally broke through for a tying score with the game seemingly headed to extra time, the Pumas came up the middle on the kickoff, swung the ball right and then back to Sara Tosti in the middle for the deciding goal.

“We were picking our heads up and we were all on the same page,” the junior forward said. “We had a big sense of urgency. We knew they were fired up and we had to put them on their heels.”

Another tie to a league rival — having deadlocked with Montgomery last week — was not in the Pumas’ plans. Maria Carrillo remained undefeated on the season, including two wins over Ursuline, third in the NBL.

A goal for each side in the game’s waning seconds was a fitting end to an up-and-down, evenly played contest.

“Both games we’ve been incredibly competitive. Tonight we controlled the tempo of the game at times, which is what we wanted to do,” said Ursuline coach John Gilson.

Particularly in the second half, Ursuline played at a faster, more confident pace. The Bears were combining passes and patiently finding players in open spaces, pressuring Pumas defenders in working for shots.

Still, the Bears couldn’t dent the Pumas’ defense until nearly running out of time and trailing by a goal.

Maria Carrillo was unable to clear a ball off an Ursuline run from the right side. Audrey Romano took it to the left corner and then served it on a line for the header goal by Mia Costa. Taking their time to set up for the kickoff, Maria Carrillo’s forwards decided to go directly at Ursuline. Victoria Kovatch kicked right to Tosti and she went right to Katie Mohr, who passed back to Tosti. Still not open, she went right to Les-lie Bustos and the play continued that way to Ali Schaffer for a cross back left for Tosti’s game winner.

“There was just this huge gap and we passed through it,” Mohr said.

Ursuline put together a final possession, but couldn’t get behind the Maria Carrillo defense.

That the game was close was testament to Ursuline’s defensive effort after giving up an early goal. When the Pumas cleared an Ursuline corner kick, Laurel Shepperd took the loose ball on a speedy run up the right side past midfield before passing to Mohr for a blast that went inside the left post.

While the Pumas would create a handful of other scoring chances, Ursuline goalkeeper Abby Steele had sure hands in front of the net to complement a long boot that set up several Bears possessions deep on Maria Carrillo’s half.

Leading the defense was Jackie Dutton in the midfield, Rachel Rubattino on the back line and Avery Dutton working up from the back to support. Their efforts set up possessions and chances for ball handlers Haily McDonald, Taylor Enzler and Costa.

Yet the Bears couldn’t finish the few good scoring chances they created.

“The biggest thing was linking some passes,” Gilson said. “Maria Carrillo is a talented group and the defense is the strength of their team.”

Busiest in keeping the Bears from getting open shots was Schaffer, as she chased down deep passes and cleared balls out of danger. As an outside back, Schaffer also pushed up to generate offense and had the touch on the pass for the game winner.

In a season that keeps getting better even as the challenges mount, the goal and win were Maria Carrillo’s most satisfying yet.

“It’s exciting when you can score in seconds like that, and especially when it’s so pretty,” said Maria Carrillo coach Debra LaPrath.