NCS girls soccer: Pumas keep title hopes alive with 2-0 win

Sonoma Valley's Hayden Pearce and Maria Carrillo's Bria VarnBuhler fight for the ball during the game held at Maria Carrillo High School, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Sonoma Valley’s Hayden Pearce and Maria Carrillo’s Bria VarnBuhler fight for the ball during the game held at Maria Carrillo High School, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

 By ALLIE COLOSKY

FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Maria Carrillo girls soccer team put the finishing touches on a 2-0 win over the Sonoma Valley Dragons Saturday night in Santa Rosa, as they continued their chase for a fourth league title in a row.

“Every team is going to play their best game against us. They literally know that we have everything to lose,” head coach Debra LaPrath said about the pressure moving forward. “Our bottom line is to keep it simple and not overlook anybody.”

The Pumas scored both goals in the second half after they were able to cope with the challenge presented by a feisty Dragons squad, LaPrath said.

“We were a little tight and a little rushed, but that’s all a part of that pressure,” she said. “We have to come out and perform perfectly every time.”

Maya Barton scored the Pumas’ first goal only 10 minutes into the second half when she received a pass from Brooke Dunbar and with her left foot sent the ball skidding across the grass into the back left post.

“I kept it on the ground because I knew it was going to skid,” Barton said.

Junior Maddie Gonzalez found the back of the net for the second goal when a deflection off a Sonoma Valley player sent the ball rolling into the back left corner.

“I got nervous when I saw it ricochet, but once it stopped I got my confidence and got to take a shot,” Gonzalez said.

Maria Carrillo improved its overall record to 21-0-1 and advanced to the third round of the North Coast Section Division I playoffs.

The Sonoma Valley Dragons dropped to 2-9-1 as their season came to an end.

“This team has more heart than any team we’ve played this season,” LaPrath said of Sonoma Valley.

“We have to not let teams change our style or make us rush and ping the ball around and that’s what they made us do,” she said.

As the Pumas continue their playoff campaign for their fourth title in as many years, LaPrath stressed the importance of understanding each individual’s role in the collective effort for the title.

“We can’t try to match someone else’s game or play someone else’s game,” she said. “Each player has to understand that they contribute something different and they absolutely have to bring that to the field.”

For the Pumas, the defense has been the anchor of their success this season, shutting out 16 of their opponents.

Keeper Claire Howard and captain Brianne Parsons agreed that it was the trust and confidence in each other that has made the back line as strong as it is.

“We have really good chemistry and we just know each other so well,” Howard said.

A ten-minute delay from the sprinklers was one more obstacle to overcome, but the Pumas took the time to address concerns with their game, Pearsons said, rather than assign blame elsewhere.

“The field is the field and they had to play on it too,” she said. “We just came out slow and had a hard time changing that.”

Even with any adversity thrown their way and the pressure of holding their title, the Pumas need to focus on the things that they do well and have the confidence to succeed, Gonzalez said.

“The field didn’t help and Sonoma showed up and took it to us, but we have to stay calm and play our game,” LaPrath added. “Everyone is going to bring more than their A game and we absolutely have to show up.”