In a week that has featured shutdowns and postponements for a number of high school teams in Long Beach, both Poly and Lakewood found themselves shorthanded for Tuesday night’s Moore League clash at Vets. Additionally, both squads were coming off less than ideal starts to their league campaigns, as a couple of tough losses prior to winter break put both teams a few games off the top spot in the standings.
Despite these issues however, the Jackrabbits were excellent, keeping a clean sheet and scoring six goals–four of which came from University of Portland signee Isabella Yakel–as they cruised to a 6-0 victory over the Lancers.
“When you’re playing teams like Lakewood, Millikan, Wilson, etc., the key is getting an early lead,” said Poly head coach Anthony Perez. “If you get up early it’s great, because then they have to chase the game. The one thing you don’t want is to have to chase a game against teams like those.”
Yakel made sure to put the Jackrabbits ahead early, as she tapped in a low cross from teammate Cynthia Ramirez after just three minutes, giving Poly a 1-0 lead that only grew as the match progressed.
“Isabella’s a really good teammate to play with”, said Ramirez. “She’s always opening up the field, and it’s just a lot of fun to play alongside her.”
Ramirez later added an impressive goal from distance in the second half, capping off a prolific attacking performance of her own.
The Jackrabbits’ second goal of the first half also came from Yakel, and it ended up being the most impressive goal of the match. After receiving the ball from teammate Rachel Perry on the left flank, Yakel took a touch before shooting from about 25 yards out, beating the Lakewood keeper with an effort that had just enough dip on it to sneak under the crossbar.
The impressive strike came in the 22nd minute, and gave Poly a 2-0 cushion, which they took into halftime.
“It was really important for us to get a good rhythm going,” Yakel explained. “We were looking to try to get as many goals as we could from the start, and we kind of struggled at first, but I think once we got our rhythm more in the second half, we felt a lot better.”
Coach Perez also expressed similar feelings about his team’s second half performance,
explaining, “I felt like we were a little bit on edge in the first half, and kind of just needed to relax and play the ball. In the second half I’d say we did that, and also did a really good job of putting it all together.”
For Lakewood, only conceding twice in the first half was impressive, considering the Lancers were missing five of their regular varsity players and had to rely on more underclassmen in this match.
Among these younger players was freshman Maia Lopez, who stayed central for most of the first half, as the Lancers tried to beat the Poly defense through the middle.
Lopez also had what looked to be the Lancers’ best chance of the first half, as she was played in behind the Poly defense with just the keeper to beat in the 30th minute. Unfortunately for the Lancers, however, play was stopped as Lopez was called for a very close offsides. Had play continued, Lakewood would’ve had a golden opportunity to score, and maybe been able go into the half down just 2-1.
On the other side of halftime, the Jackrabbits came out firing and scored their third in the 48th minute, as Camila Montes’ knuckle balling shot from about 25 yards out, took an awkward bounce before finding the back of the net.
“With so many games and everything that’s going on right now, we’ve had a lot of players out because of injuries and other issues,” said Ramirez. “This was definitely one of the better games we’ve played, and I feel like we did well to get a lot of people involved, especially going forward.”
Ramirez’ goal came in the 57th minute, and gave the Jackrabbits a comfortable 4-0 advantage. That was followed up just two minutes later, as Yakel completed her hat trick with a skillful solo run that ended with a great right footed finish.
“A lot of other teams in Long Beach are stopping right now because of Covid difficulties, so just being able to play today and soak in this opportunity, was really nice,” explained Yakel.
Yakel’s fourth and final goal–the sixth and final for Poly–was similar to her third, as it featured a brilliant solo run before she finished the chance in the bottom left corner. Instead this time, she showed her versatility, as she worked the ball down the left flank, rather than through the middle.
“The formation we played today was a 3-5-2, which gives you those flanking widths to take up space”, explained Coach Perez. “The idea was to play into the middle and out to the widths, to utilize the space available down both sides.”
For the Jackrabbits, both Olivia D’Anna and Rachel Perry used this wing-space effectively, getting in behind and causing problems for the Lakewood defense the entire game.
As for the Lancers, the second half was much more difficult than the first, as their lack of depth proved to be an issue. They started the game with one substitute on the bench, and because of a few injuries, were forced to play with ten players for some parts of the second half.
Looking ahead, Lakewood’s next match is away to Cabrillo on Thursday.
Poly’s doesn’t resume Moore League play until next week when they play host to Jordan on Tuesday, before their big rematch against rivals Wilson on Jan. 13.