NCS girls soccer: Sonoma Academy beats St. Vincent for third time

Sonoma Academy's Chloe Colbert strikes the ball past St. Vincent goalie Jacalyn Murphy for the game’s only goal Wednesday. (KENT PORTER / Press Democrat)

Sonoma Academy’s Chloe Colbert strikes the ball past St. Vincent goalie Jacalyn Murphy for the game’s only goal Wednesday. (KENT PORTER / Press Democrat)

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma Academy and St. Vincent battle in a pair of league games each soccer season, but the rivals often figure on a playoff contest to decide bragging rights.

The two teams Wednesday met in the North Coast Section Division 3 semifinals for a third consecutive year. Sonoma Academy got the 1-0 win, scoring the game’s lone goal on a late breakaway to send the host Coyotes back to the finals.

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“It’s hard to beat a team three times in a row. It was just that extra little effort that was the difference,” said Chloe Colbert, who scored on an assist from Sally Ziemer.

So evenly matched are the NCL II rivals that each of Sonoma Academy’s three wins over St. Vincent was by a single goal.

“It’s definitely always a fun game, but it’s tough to take the loss,” said Rebecca Dodele, St. Vincent’s primary playmaker. “We were putting pressure on the ball to have strong chances. We looked for fast kicks, but they wouldn’t let us.”

Stifling defense limited scoring opportunities at both ends. The contest featured a number of returning All-Empire players and several candidates to join those ranks.

The strength of the programs is evident in their NCS titles. St. Vincent holds seven and Sonoma Academy has three. The teams combined for six in a row until Middletown broke through last season.

“We knew if we wanted to compete for a league and NCS title we would have to be ready to beat them,” Sonoma Academy coach Chris Ziemer said. “We’re finding a way to win close games.”

One apparent advantage for Sonoma Academy this season is an edge in technical skill across the field. Up front, Colbert is fast and sure-footed, complementing Savannah Stoughton’s strong possession and passing.

Adding to the Coyotes offense is newcomer Sally Ziemer, an unselfish midfielder who helps control play.

Spreading their attack with sharper, quicker balls, Sonoma Academy brought more second-half pressure.

Still, the Coyotes could manage few shots on goal. Sonoma Academy forced more corner kicks on the afternoon yet none produced a clear scoring chance. Sonoma Academy’s few opportunities were corralled by St. Vincent goalkeeper Jacalyn Murphy.

Anchoring the Mustangs defense were Taylor Owen and Maddie Perry. Strong on the ball, the pair anticipated passes well and won their share of loose balls.

“That’s our strength, we’re a team. The girls play well together,” St. Vincent coach Paul Sweeney said.

Buoyed by the defensive effort, St. Vincent sent runs down the sides during a well-played stretch of the second half. Speedy and skilled Lauren Kulasingam and determined Emma Roberti supported Dodele in connecting passes and forcing Sonoma Academy midfielders to bolster the defense.

One player St. Vincent could not get past was Payton Devore. Stepping into a new role at center back, Devore clogs passing lanes and yields little ground. Her clear balls typically find the feet of teammates on the move.

The game turned during one fast-paced series of midfield counters by both teams. Cutting off a ball, Ziemer served a low, bouncing ball that Colbert controlled with a header and then punched the shot past a diving Murphy from 8 yards out.

“She played it perfect. Running onto the ball I could see my chance,” Colbert said.

With under 15 minutes to go, the pace remained fast as the teams continued pushing for an edge.

Losing was hardest on the six St. Vincent seniors, who have played together all four years. Still, with a pair of titles on their watch, the girls remain plenty proud.

“We wanted to get back to the finals,” Dodele said. “We can look back and say we played as hard as we could.”

The spirited play was also notable because the teams had long warm-ups contrasted by little halftime rest due to the game’s late start.

Referees were dispatched to the wrong field — at Sonoma Valley — and replacement officials kept the game moving to beat the darkness, as Sonoma Academy does not have a lighted field.

An energy bar gave Colbert more fuel for the second-half run.

“Everybody had better legs the second half,” she said. “We just had to get it done.”

 

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