Midway through the Moore League girls’ soccer season, two-time defending league champion Millikan was struggling. Head coach Tino Nunez’s squad had a lopsided loss to Wilson and a draw with Poly to show for their troubles, and the Rams were floundering.
“We weren’t playing as a team,” said Nunez. “We preach team, but we weren’t a team.”
After canceling a nonleague game to hold bonding exercises and focus on the off-field camaraderie, the Rams came out firing on all cylinders in the second half of league play. Now, after Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over Wilson, the Rams are on the cusp of history.
Wins over Lakewood, Cabrillo, and Jordan–all of whom Millikan beat easily in the first round–would give MIllikan a Moore League three-peat for the first time in the history of its girls’ soccer program. Prior to the current streak of titles, the Rams had only won three league titles in history dating back to 1976.
“It doesn’t happen often, so this is for the girls who have been a part of the program,” said Nunez, a Millikan alum himself. “I always tell them I experienced this as a player, we won the league title all four years under coach Pek. You want to keep that feeling going.”
Things weren’t feeling so good for the Rams in the early-going, as some chances went wide and then Wilson got on the board first. The Bruins’ Aoife Powell drew a foul just at the edge of the box, and the official awarded Wilson a PK, which Cade Mendoza calmly buried in the 29th minute for a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute before halftime, the Rams answered. Senior Alyssa Reyes teed off a perfect corner kick service and found the head of teammate Courtney Cummings, whose header attempt banged off the post and landed at the feet of Natalie Paulson, who buried it.
“I knew it was good, yeah,” said Reyes when asked how the kick felt off her foot.
The two seniors hooked up on another stellar play in the 46th minute, as Reyes dribbled through the teeth of the Wilson defense then left it off for Cummings, who had a left-foot strike to give Millikan a 2-1 lead.
The Rams had more chances after that but Wilson goalie Olivia Herrera was able to keep the Bruins in it. When full time was whistled, the Rams broke out in celebration.
“I kept thinking this whole season, there was a reason we tied Poly,” said Cummings of her team’s improbable 2-2 draw, in which both of the Rams’ goals came in the final two minutes. “Like we came back and tied it, and we just kept working. It feels really good.”