Wilson girls’ soccer coach Dalton Kaufman keeps a blue fidget spinner in his jacket pocket during games. It’s a way of trying to keep calm during tense contests, to remove emotion from emotional situations. For 50 minutes of his team’s big rivalry Moore League game against Long Beach Poly, it looked like the fidget spinner would go un-spun, as Wilson got out to a three-goal lead on the Jackrabbits.
By the end of what turned into a real thriller, Kaufman had put a lot of work in as his team held on to defeat Poly 3-2.
“There was smoke coming out of this thing by the end of the game,” said Kaufman with a laugh.
The win puts Wilson (8-3-1, 4-1-0) in sole possession of second place behind Millikan (5-0-0 in league) after the Rams remained undefeated with a 1-0 win over Lakewood. Poly (8-4-1, 3-2-0) is in third.
Wilson junior Emma Shiffer scored in the fourth and 15th minutes off assists from Mollie Dostalek and Samantha Thompson to put Wilson up 2-0 quickly and put the host Jackrabbits on their heels.
“They got off to a slow start and we caught them a little bit, but the beginning was deceptive,” said Kaufman.
The Bruins went up 3-0 in the 50th minute on a 30-yard screamer from sophomore Cade Mendoza, who made a nice move to get free and let loose for the decisive goal.
The Jackrabbits dug in, however, as forward Aniah Cutler broke free for a pair of goals in the 54th and 57th minutes, using her physicality to push through the Wilson defense for scores.
“We started slow, we didn’t match their energy coming out,” said Poly coach Anthony Perez. “If you don’t get on offense then you’re on defense, and if you’re on defense long enough a punch gets through. Our message at halftime was let’s go hit it, run, and play gritty.”
The Jackrabbits had the momentum for most of the second half and came close to tying it after Cutler’s pair of scores.
Wilson got a great performance in goal from freshman Olivia Herrera, who was making her first start in place of regular starter daniella Uchio, who was sick. Herrera had 13 saves and held off a late Poly flurry as the Jackrabbits tried to pull level.
The Jackrabbits outshot the Bruins 22-12 in the loss.
“This was a weight off my shoulders,” said Shiffer. “We prepared for this game all season, I knew we’d win. I had some nerves early but I shook it off–this is our big rivalry game and we had to win it.”
Kaufman was happy with how his team started, and with the toughness they showed in finishing it out.
“This is a big confidence boost for our girls, they believe they’re the team to beat in league,” he said.