Early goals and superior organization helped Wilson girls’ soccer take down visiting Millikan on Tuesday night. The 2-1 victory moved the Bruins to the top of the Moore League standings ahead of the second-place Rams.
Senior captain Kristin Berry gave Wilson (12-3-3, 8-1) the lead in the third minute, and sophomore Amaya Stewart doubled the lead in the 28th minute. Millikan (10-5-1, 5-1-1) cut the lead in half when senior Jordyn Holly scored with nine minutes left to play, but the Bruins held on for their fifth consecutive win.
“We pride ourselves on our defending and organization, and it was enough for the win,” Wilson assistant coach Steve Soler said. “Through the adversity they’ve encountered over the last few weeks, I thought these girls did a remarkable job.”
Wilson has struggled with injuries this season and have been without head coach Dalton Kaufman, who is dealing with a personal issue.
“Coming in we knew that we needed the intensity and team chemistry,” Berry said. “Our seniors are leaders for everyone. Tonight it really felt like we came together. We had the chemistry and grit to win.”
There were only three real scoring chances in the first half, and Wilson scored on its two opportunities. Senior Emma Shiffer broke free on the left flank in the third minute and beat her defender to the endline where she sent a cross into the 18-yard box. Berry measured the half-volley in the middle of the box and lofted it home with the inside of her left foot for the early lead.
“When you don’t come out ready to go this is what happens,” Millikan coach Tino Nunez said. “If you put yourself in a hole it’s not good enough against these teams. You can’t do that.”
Wilson limited Millikan to only one shot in the first half while enjoying the lion’s share of possession.
“They went direct and diagonal to put us under pressure and we just weren’t able to match that first half,” Nunez said.
Some of that pressure earned an important set piece in the 28th minute, and Stewart bounced her free kick off of the back post and in for the 2-0 halftime lead.
After a stern halftime speech from Nunez, and a tactical shift to push numbers forward, Millikan outshot Wilson 8-3 in the second half and 9-5 in the game. Millikan junior Alyssa Reyes created a lot of chances for the Rams, but Wilson countered by moving Berry back into a defensive midfield position to mark her.
“The switch and that responsibility is to sacrifice and play wherever for the greater good of the team,” Berry said. “I don’t mind playing back a little or against certain players. You do the job you’ve been told and you move to where you move to get the win.”
“Berry did a great job just keeping (Reyes) in front,” Soler said. “We knew they had crafty players up top who are very dangerous. In the first game (against Millikan) they hindered us a little bit. We went down 2-0 and couldn’t recover. It was good to see (Berry) being that senior leader. She came up big.”
Millikan’s pressure led to a few long throw ins, and one of them led to the Rams goal.
In the 71st minute, a throw was cleared only as far as Millikan defender Danielle Paulson who sent it back into the box. Her service found captain Samy Sierra unmarked and she got the first touch on the bouncing ball. Wilson goalkeeper Olivia Herrera came off her line to meet Sierra at the ball, and the deflection met Holly at the front post. The senior knocked the ball into goal with her knee to cut the lead in half.
The Rams earned a few more scoring opportunities in the final nine minutes, but Herrera made the five saves in the game necessary to secure the victory.
“We knew they had to win,” Nunez said. “When you have a team flying at you like that you have to really be ready. That’s definitely something to learn from.”
Wilson has three league games left and has another big challenge against third-place Long Beach Poly next Thursday. Millikan has four league games left on the schedule.
“Hopefully we can put it behind us right away, be sure that we’re ready to go for the next couple of games, and then finish off senior night against Lakewood strong,” Nunez said. “You never know in this game and anything could happen. Go Poly.”