Usually when a high school soccer team plays a dominant second half it comes after some sort of rousing halftime speech or a massive shift in strategy. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday night at Millikan where the Rams hosted Long Beach Poly in Moore League girls’ soccer action.
Millikan coach Tino Nunez said the message to his team after an even first half was that, “There’s a lot of noise, it’s a big game, so let’s calm the nerves and let’s play by wearing them down rather than getting caught in this reckless back and forth stuff when we have the ability to play good soccer, and the players to cause trouble.”
The Rams responded with two goals after the break to take the game 3-1. They outshot the Jackrabbits 8-2 in the second half, and 11-4 in the game.
“The first half we were getting our jitters out because we were expecting it to be a hard game, and it was,” said Millikan forward Sydney Trump, who scored the go-ahead goal. “Everyone just came together and it was an amazing outcome.”
Millikan (8-0, 3-0) is ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll this week.
“(At halftime) we had a chance to come together and calm down,” said Millikan forward Sierra Sythe, who had an assist and scored in the final minutes. “The atmosphere was really intense. So going into the second half and really regrouping and telling ourselves that it’s just us and we can ignore everything else in our environment and just play the game that we wanted.”
Despite still playing without multiple starters due to injuries, Poly came out and went toe-to-toe with the three-time defending league champions. The Jackrabbits ended up taking the first shot of the night in the 18th minute when they earned a set piece near the corner. Camila Montes sent in the near-side service and Olivia D’Anna scored with a one-time finish off the volley.
Millikan answered five minutes later when Sythe won the ball on the near sideline and sent it all the way to the back post where Hannah Marshall headed in the equalizer.
After catching its collective breath and calming down at halftime, Millikan took the first six shots of the second half and the first one gave it the lead for good.
In the 48th minute, Sythe took the throw-in from Samantha Soria about 20-yards out, and then played it back to the defender.
“(Poly) was really condensed in the box and I knew that we had supporting players underneath and our midfield is really strong,” Sythe said. “(Soria) is really great at crosses and I knew there was going to be space there.”
Soria’s cross to the top of the box was headed into the 18-yard box by Hannah Davy, and it landed perfectly at the feet of Trump. The junior beat her defender with a flick off the outside of her right foot, and then beat the goalkeeper the same way to score in the side netting.
“I’ve done a few moves like that so I know it pretty well… I just saw the opportunity,” Trump said. “I was just waiting for it to go in and I was just jumping with excitement. I was just so happy.”
“Once I saw Sydney take that touch I knew she was going to be creative because that’s just who she is and I could see the ball going in before it even happened,” Sythe said.
Sythe put the game away in the 78th minute when she one-timed a cross from Marshall right in front of goal. The West Virginia commit had a game-high four shots in the game to go with her assist on Marshall’s equalizer.
“She’s next level,” Nunez said of Sythe. “You can see she’s thinking a play or two ahead of things already. She’s just quick on her feet with great touches. It’s nice to have one of those on your side.”
Poly (2-2, 1-2) is still ranked No. 10 in the CIF-SS Division 1 poll after putting together a pair of quality shorthanded performances in league losses to Wilson and Millikan.
“When we’re at full strength I think it’s going to be a much different story,” Poly coach Anthony Perez said. “There’s some spaces there in the last moments where those balls that did slip in, those last two especially, I think (with our full rotation) we can keep those out of the goal. I’ll be honest, I think we played better and I think we worked harder. I think they thought they were going to do more damage than they did.”
Nunez thinks that his team beating quality competition earlier this month has noticeably improved the way they respond to adversity.
“All of (those games) were dog fights and we found a way to win,” Nunez said. “You can see the confidence in the group after that and the way they approach things.”
The next big league game is Jan. 4 when Millikan hosts Wilson.