It’s not often both coaches come away pleased with the result of a 1-0 game.
Yet that is how both Menlo-Atherton head girls’ soccer coach Jason Luce and his Carlmont counterpart John Wilkinson felt following the Bears 1-0 win in the final Bay Division match of 2019.
M-A struck less than 10 minutes into the game and then held off a flurry of Carlmont attacks in an entertaining, back-and-forth affair in Belmont Thursday afternoon.
“It’s a cruel game sometimes,” Wilkinson said. ““We had a bad half against Aragon (last week) and I wasn’t happy with the way we played — and we won. I’m happy with the way we played (Thursday).”
Luce is just happy to get through these first two Peninsula Athletic League without a loss. The Bears opened Bay Division play with a tie against Burlingame Dec. 10 before beating the Scots.
“[We have a] win and a tie. I’ll take it,” Luce said.
M-A benefitted greatly by the return of junior midfielder Lexi Quinn, who had missed the last two games. Her impact was felt all over the midfield as she seamlessly transitioned between attacking and defensive midfield roles, and when the opportunity presented itself, going on the attack herself.
Which is what led to the game’s only goal. Fellow midfielder Analicia Bonelli triggered the play by winning a battle for possession in the Scots’ end of the field. Bonelli emerged with the ball as Quinn started to make her run. Bonelli slipped a pass through traffic and found Quinn in stride. After hurdling an initial tackle, Quinn broke in on goal. Between defenders, she slotted a pass past the Carlmont goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.
“She’s our (marquee) player,” Luce said. “We set up around her. Her soccer IQ is off the charts.”
If was a rude introduction to the varsity level for Carlmont goalkeeper Lucy Lopshire, who found out Wednesday night she was getting called up from the JV squad to start in goal against the Bears because the Scots’ two regulars were both injured.
M-A (1-0-1 PAL Bay, 2-2-3 overall) looked to double its advantage five minutes later when a Bears’ cross was sent to the far left post that found a wide open Juliet Dineen, who hit a point-blank shot off the bounce — right into the feet of Lopshire. It was one of eight saves during game for Lopshire, who made another point-blank save on a partial breakaway in the second half.
Carlmont certainly had its scoring opportunities and had the better chances the rest of the first half. In fact, the Scots just missed taking a one-goal lead themselves when senior midfielder Samantha Phan sent a perfect through ball to Sabrina Kelley on the right wing. She carried the ball into the penalty box, but her shot caromed off the crossbar and out of danger just three minutes into the game.
Midway through the first half, Carlmont earned the first of its seven corners. The ball was sent into the middle of the M-A penalty box, where it was nodded out to the top where it found Phan. But her attempt from 18 yards skipped off the crossbar for a second near-miss.
“That was us last season,” Wilkinson said of Thursday’s bad luck.
The teams traded attacks back and forth for the rest of the half, but neither team mustered many choice chances.
Carlmont (1-1, 5-1-2) kept up the pressure in the second half, with the Bears absorbing it and then trying to catch the Scots on the counterattack. Twice Carlmont got solid shots on goal — on headers from Rachel.Amin Chatman and Sonali Kanaya — but each one was right at M-A goalkeeper Emily McMaster, who handled both routinely.
“If we play like this the rest of the season, we’ll be fine,” Wilkinson said.
M-A had its chances to add to its lead in the second half, freshmen Jane Fiorentino and Fabiana Bolanos proved dangerous wings, but the Carlmont defense and Lopshire were up to the task.
“Overall, we were a little bit fortunate,” Luce said. “Carlmont played really well in the first half.”