Classic aggressive defense and resulting lack of scoring chances had the Long Beach Poly and Wilson Moore League girls’ soccer opener headed for a scoreless draw on Tuesday, but Wilson’s Camryn Cruz had other plans.
In the 78th minute, Cruz ran onto a perfectly placed pass from Aoife Powell at the top of the 18-yard box and knocked in the game-winning goal to lift the visiting Bruins to victory 1-0. The win snaps a three-game losing streak against rival Poly.
“We all wanted this game really bad and we’ve been working our butts off for it,” Cruz said. “They came out hard but I feel we came out harder.”
The decisive goal was only the second shot on goal for Wilson while Poly outshot the Bruins 7-5. Wilson goalkeeper Olivia Herrera made five saves to secure a fourth consecutive clean sheet win.
“Over the years our rivalry has always been super tough and super competitive,” Herrera said. “Poly is a great team so I think that whoever got the lucky goal would set the tone and we were lucky to get that goal.”
Wilson first-year coach Brian Irvin said he also wasn’t surprised by the physicality and hotly contested league opener.
“That’s a typical Poly and Wilson matchup,” Irvin said. “It was back and forth and could go either way. I was just proud of how my girls kept with it and we were able to find the winner in the end.”
Poly midfielder Isabella Yakel was the best player in the open run of play and helped create a handful of scoring chances for her team, but the Jackrabbits were left wanting.
“It’s always hard having a Wilson or Millikan opener because that’s the biggest competition we have,” Poly coach Anthony Perez said. “We had opportunities to put it away and we should have. They had maybe one or two clean opportunities like that and they put the one away.”
Over 30 fouls called in the game while all of the shots on goal came off set pieces. Herrera was perfectly positioned to make her saves, and the junior also came off her line a handful of times to cut out other Jackrabbit chances.
“I noticed in the first half their game plan was to try and get that through ball so I knew that I had to be aggressive on every attack and be off my line and get to the ball first,” Herrera said.
In the 45th minute, Poly earned a pair of shots on goal of set pieces. There wasn’t another shot on goal until the 78th minute.
Wilson captain Eleni Voulgaris started the game-winning play with a nice through ball up to Powell. The senior cut back inside at the top of the box and rolled the ball across the top of the box for Cruz.
“I knew that if I cut in that Camryn was going to make that run there and she was perfectly there and ready to score,” Powell said. “I think we knew it was coming. We felt it, we felt the energy coming. Play after play we were so close. Once I released the ball I knew it was going to be a goal.”
“(Powell) always has this play where she looks up and I know it’s my turn to go, so I overlapped her and the ball was perfect and it was just a one-touch goal,” Cruz said.
“I felt like we were going to get another opportunity and we were able to take advantage of that,” Irvin said. “This is a huge win for us to set the tone and gain confidence that we can win against Poly and also away from home.”
The next big league game is Tuesday between Long Beach Poly (1-1, 0-1) and three-time defending champion Millikan (4-0, 1-0). The Rams beat Lakewood 8-0 on Tuesday. League action continues Thursday when Wilson (3-0-1, 1-0) hosts Jordan, Poly travels to Cabrillo and Millikan hosts Compton.
Shots: Poly 7, Wilson 5
Shots On Goal: Poly 5, Wilson 2
Fouls: Wilson 16, Poly 13
Yellow Cards: Wilson 3, Poly 1
Corners: Wilson 1, Poly 1