The San Marcos High girls soccer team was the one coming into Tuesday’s matchup against Dos Pueblos riding high.
After a one-goal victory this past Saturday against crosstown rival Santa Barbara, the Royals were hoping to pick up their second straight Channel League win against a Chargers team that lost at Santa Ynez last Thursday.
What awaited San Marcos, however, was a punishing loss.
Dos Pueblos scored within the first five minutes when midfielder Kamila Picket intercepted a lazy pass, then outran the entire San Marcos defense to put her team in front early, giving the Chargers the confidence to defeat the Royals 2-0 at Warkentin Stadium.
“That early goal was really good because SM is one of our rivals and just being able to have that security that we’re already ahead and have that momentum going for us was really important for our confidence and intensity,” senior co-captain Reyna Zuzunaga said.
As Zuzunaga alluded to, Picket’s goal set the tone for the entire match.
At the three minute mark, the senior stole a lazy pass by SM’s Ayla Sutter. Once she controlled it, Picket ran down the right hash, outgunning multiple defenders, then cut inside toward the middle of the field.
Once arriving about five yards into the 18, Picket fired a goal to the left corner of the net, easily beating the Royals keeper to put her team up 1-0.
“I warned our players about the speed of that particular girl but I don’t think they believed me until they saw it,” San Marcos coach Jennifer Sotelo said.
“Then all of a sudden they adjusted so I think they just had to see it for themselves.”
By the time the Royals saw Picket’s speed, however, it was too late as the Chargers (3-2-2, 1-1) jumped out to a 1-0 lead.
The first half saw San Marcos get multiple looks at an equalizer, but not many resulted in shots on target.
The Royals had a good look in the 22nd minute when Kate Sheldon played a ball up ahead to Sofia Higgins. The junior controlled the ball inside the 18, but the pressure from DP’s goalkeeper forced her to sail the shot.
Overall, San Marcos had eight shots in the first half with only two being on target. The Royals’ Paige Ingram had a free kick just outside the 18, but her shot landed right into the arms of the Chargers’ keeper.
“We’re just going to work on finishing where you do it so much it becomes a habit. The shots were soft and some were on goal but I’d rather have three on goal shots then 20 soft shots that are just going all over the place,” Sotelo said.
DP also had a very good look in the first half to go up 2-0 in the 36th minute when Gizela Zermeno received a pass from Barbara Gonzalez inside the six-yard box.
Zermeno’s first shot hit the left post and quickly came back to her and her second shot was a little too wide, landing out of bounds just right of the post.
In the second half, both teams were battling tough, but finally, in the 56th minute, the Chargers got their insurance goal.
It came from DP’s captain herself, Zuzunaga. After controlling a pass about 30 yards from the goal, Zuzunaga turned with the ball and ran to the left hash.
Once inside the box, the senior fired a fantastic shot from her left foot in between two defenders that found the top left corner, well out of reach from SM’s keeper, and put her team up 2-0.
“When I got the ball, I just turned with it and I saw a couple of girls ahead of me but then I saw a little bit of open space and, even though I am right-footed, I like to shoot with my left and I saw the opening between those two girls and thought I could sneak it through there,” Zuzunaga said.
“I practiced that shot a lot.”
From there, DP would hold on with ease. San Marcos became a bit more desperate with the time running and abandoned simple passes to connect and instead tried to force the ball upfield.
“The league is so competitive, every single game is is going to be tough. Everyone’s pretty equal and the race for the title, it’s not even close to over, I just have to get my girls to know that and have their confidence back,” Sotelo said.
“This (last) weekend was great. The confidence was sky high, but as today showed us we have a lot of things to work on. I want to start strong like on Saturday and not play from behind.”
For Zuzunaga, she believes the Chargers might finally be settling into their roles. The senior noted how most of their players took a while to adjust to each other after club season.
While usually, most players that play on the same high school team also play on the same club team, Zuzunaga said DP has girls from five different clubs.
“I think we started out a little bit slow with girls from like five different clubs. But, coming together and building up a team and really getting to know each other is really cool. After a month or two, we’re starting to get that rhythm, our rhythm,” Zuzunaga said.
Being the defending league champs, Zuzunaga said that last week’s loss at Santa Ynez also refocused the team to try to defend their crown.
“I think that first loss really set us straight and we said ‘okay look, now we have to we really push to get that league champ title again,’” Zuzunaga said.
“I definitely think we could win league again. I am not worried at all for this season or even the seasons to come, we have a lot of great talent. It’s going to be hard but with who we have and the passion we have, we could really prove we deserve to be champions again.”