The562’s soccer coverage for the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Beach Futbol Club.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by JuJu Smith-Schuster and the JuJu Foundation.
All eyes were on Kiara Van Deusen.
The Poly senior was in the right place at the right time to stop the ball at the top of the Wilson 18-yard box. It just sat there, waiting for Van Deusen to change the game.
“I kind of froze for a second because I saw all of the players in front of the goal,” Van Deusen said. “Props to (Wilson goalkeeper Olivia Herrera) because I know how good she is, but I took the chance because I knew that if it was going to go in this was the time. I just cracked that shot and it went in for me.”
Van Deusen perfectly lifted her shot over the outstretched hands of Herrera. That 31st minute goal was the deciding factor on Thursday night as visiting Poly took the first marquee Moore League game of the season 1-0.
“In this game it’s easy to get fired up and know the value,” Poly coach Anthony Perez said. “We knew if we kept balance and shape and then worked out of that shape we’d be alright.”
The strategy in the midfield proved to be the difference as Poly had the better of the ball while outshooting Wilson 13-9. Perez always wants his teams to play up the middle where Van Deusen, her sister Katana Van Deusen, Aaya McLyn and others have a great connection with the back line.
“We were playing strong,” Van Deusen said. “We have some unfortunate injuries so we had to fill in some of the gaps, like Cecelia Hallock coming off the bench, and we knew we had to stick together with the combination plays we’ve been practicing. We used those to get forward and it worked for us to connect in and out.”
Wilson (1-2-0, 0-1-0) started brightly with two of the first good looks at goal in the first seven minutes. Reece Doherty created both chances from the left flank where she found Zoie Fontenot and Kate Eckenrode. Fontenot’s deflected shot came forcefully but Poly’s goalkeeper Kennedy Justin left her feet to make the first of her four saves in the clean sheet performance.
“Credit to Poly, they’re tough to play against,” Wilson coach Brian Irvin said. “We just couldn’t find those little gaps that you saw in the first five minutes. Maybe they made a quick adjustment, and it didn’t go our way. I felt like they were first to the ball a little bit and outworked us at times. We have to look at ourselves and try to improve on that.”
Poly (2-0-0, 2-0-0) used its aggressiveness to build momentum just before the half hour mark. Leah Salas forced Herrera into a diving save minutes before Wilson defender Eleni Voulgaris had to clear a deflected corner kick header off the line from Van Deusen.
Salas ended up creating the scoring opportunity for Van Deusen in the 31st minute by holding up the ball at the top of the box and getting a deflection to the senior on her left.
“I knew I had to run up with her to give her support and (when the ball came to me) I knew I had one shot to take,” Van Deusen said.
At the other end, Alex Valente and the Poly backline was able to limit the Bruins using their speed on the flanks. Wilson only had one shot in the first half after the goal, and Justin made it on a close poke from Voulgaris off a corner kick.
Poly started on the front foot after the break and had five of the first six shots of the second half, but Herrera made a few relatively easy stops to keep the Jackrabbits off the scoreboard. She finished with three saves.
Wilson closed strong with a string of scoring chances in the finals minutes. Again it was Fontenot and Doherty creating the opportunities by stretching out the Poly back three defenders. With less than five minutes remaining, Doherty’s set piece service went to the top of the box where Leah Garcia sent a seeking shot back through traffic, but the ball bounced off the post.
Fontenot ran onto one last chance but Justin bravely and smartly came off her line to fall on the ball before a shot.
The Poly bench charged the field in celebration after the final whistle, and Van Deusen said that the reason for the big reaction was because a lot of her classmates were playing in their first Poly/Wilson game.
“It’s always going to be heated, but I have some friends on that team so I was able to talk to them and there’s always going to be those heated moments when people are stressed and they’re going to say some things,” she said. “But at the end of the day we’re family because we play the same sports and we’re all connected in some way so we pick each other up at the end. But when it’s game time, it’s game time.”
This is only the second game of the season for Poly because Perez wanted to limit his team's exposure. The Jackrabbits beat Jordan on Tuesday in their season opener.
“They all have club stuff going and everybody is taking knocks and bruises,” Perez said. “I’ve had too many injuries here. Within the last two seasons I’ve had six ACL (injuries on the team).”
Poly will be at the Best of the West tournament this weekend and will play JSerra and Harvard-Westlake before hosting Millikan next Thursday.
Wilson, the defending league champions, will face Cabrillo and Jordan next week before playing Lakewood and Millikan the week after that.