Benefield: Carrillo shuts out Montgomery in 4-0 win

Maria Carrillo's Megan Sullivan, right, kicks the ball away as Montgomery's April Gomez, pressures her during the game at Maria Carrillo High School on Monday.(Press Democrat photo / Crista Jeremiason)

Maria Carrillo’s Megan Sullivan, right, kicks the ball away as Montgomery’s April Gomez, pressures her during the game at Maria Carrillo High School on Monday.(Press Democrat photo / Crista Jeremiason)

By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

If possession is nine-tenths of the law, the Maria Carrillo Pumas were wearing the big star badges Monday night.

In the premier match-up in North Coast girls soccer, the Pumas hosted the Montgomery Vikings in a battle of the unbeatens.

The Pumas were playing on their home field, but they were not very gracious hosts. They won the ball and kept it. They didn’t share. They passed and played and dodged and moved but they would not let the Vikings set up their game.

When the Vikings’ defensive line won the ball, the Pumas immediately put them under pressure and forced the Vikings into making hurried clears that usually ended up at the foot of a player wearing a white jersey. And that began another series of short, deliberate passes that kept the ball on the Pumas’ feet.

It wasn’t a game of heart-stopping chances but of possession. Slow and plodding? No. But nearly methodical? Yes. Carrillo built up from the back with short passes and if it wasn’t working were content to pull back.

Of course the Pumas were given the gift of time by two early goals.

The game was 1-0 before it was five minutes old after junior Brooke Dunbar headed in a cross from senior Dani Nunn.

Six minutes later the Pumas were up 2-0 after senior defensive stalwart Brianne Parsons converted a penalty kick. The scored remained there for the rest of the game until two goals were netted in stoppage time.

The Pumas’ attack was multi-faceted but usually involved dynamic junior Maddy Gonzalez. Gonzales didn’t get on the board, but she had the Vikings chasing her much of the night, which opened up opportunities for other Pumas to get into the mix.

All four Pumas goals were scored by different players.

In the first nine games of the season, the Pumas have scored 43 goals and given up two. That’s a fairly well-oiled machine.

What the Vikings could muster came by way of sheer muscle and heart.

Junior Taylor Ziemer practically willed a few shots off, but the Pumas’ defense kept her well out of her range. Even the rockets she did launch were too far out to give Pumas goalkeeper Claire Howard much trouble.

Perhaps the prettiest shot of the night was, yup, off the foot of Ziemer who lofted a nifty ball from deep in the left corner that sent Howard scrambling backward to make a falling snag. It was as close as the Vikings would get all night.

Parsons said the Pumas, many of whom play with Ziemer on their club team, know what kind of game she can bring.

“We know how she plays,” she said.

“We are used to defending her every day at practice. We knew what she was going to do and we closed it down.”

Maybe the dominant play was an after-effect of the Pumas’ 1-1 tie with visiting Issaquah High from Washington on Saturday.

Pumas coach Debra LaPrath called that game, not the match-up with heated rival Montgomery last night, the Puma’s toughest game yet this season.

“It was the best team we have played all season so far,” she said. “They were aggressive, very well organized.”

So maybe that startling result — the Pumas haven’t lost in 57 games and last recorded a tie in September of last year — jump-started the squad?

“We kind of got caught on our heels,” Parsons said. “Every team has that one game.”

Parsons, for one, wasn’t going to let that happen again.

The senior was all over the back line Monday night, shutting down individual Vikings and directing traffic. Goalkeeper Howard had very little work to do with Parsons and company keeping the Vikings from penetrating anywhere near the box. She called Monday night’s performance the team’s best of the season.

“When it comes down to it, our team did what we were supposed to,” Parsons said.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com and on Twitter @benefield