Thursday marked the home opener for the San Marcos girls soccer team, but even inside the comfy confines of Warkentin Stadium, the Royals could not come up with their first win of the season.
In fact, after starting the season with two draws out on the road, San Marcos picked up its first loss of the season being outpaced by Hart High 5-1.
“They were just faster than us, both on and off the ball and in all of their movement,” San Marcos coach Jennifer Sotelo said.
That speed showcased itself within the first minutes of the game as senior Sarah Melvin scored the first goal to put the Indians on top 1-0. Hart then got two goals from senior forward Alyssa Irwin to go up 3-0 within the game’s first 20 minutes.
Throughout those 20 minutes, the Hart athletes showcased their speed on and off the ball and made it hard for any San Marcos player to track their mark.
“Our ball movement was excellent, our speed of play and the movement of the ball especially in their first 20 minutes was really outstanding and got them a little off guard,” Hart coach Guilherme Mitrovitch said.
“In my seven years as a coach here that is probably one of the best starts I ever had. It was really good.”
Trailing by three goals, the Royals started showing some life. They panicked less and started connecting on passes through the midfield and were overall more aggressive in getting pressure.
That pressure helped them get their only goal of the evening as Sophia Orozco took the ball away and passed it up ahead to Sierra Chesluk, who came through with a goal that lofted over the goalie’s head and found the back of the net.
“It was a well-done pressure and Sierra capitalized. She saw the goalie was off her line. It took hard work to get that goal and I thought it was nice and I thought it was a good morale booster to go into the half,” Royals’ junior midfielder Paige Ingram said.
Once out of the break, San Marcos again tried to keep pace with Hart and played well. The Royals continued trying to score a goal and pull within one, but the Indians speed again was just too much to overcome with Irwin tallying a hat trick with her third goal of the game to go up 4-1.
Though not a household name in Santa Barbara quite yet, local soccer fans around the area might get to know Irwin really well over the next four years as she committed to playing soccer at UC Santa Barbara. Irwin was the Player of the Year last season in the Foothill League and Mitrovitch called her “a special player.”
She scored 22 goals last year and assisted on six others as she led the Indians to their sixth consecutive league title after going undefeated.
For Mitrovitch, getting the first goal of the second half was crucial.
“I told them at half whoever scores the first goal is important, because if they score, it is 3-2 and things could get crazy, but if we score they have to climb a mountain to come back at 4-1, so it was important,” Mitrovitch said.
The Indians would score their last goal with about 10 minutes remaining in the contest as Mialani Noble, who assisted on three goals, got past the keeper and score with ease.
“I am really confident this year we can win league and hopefully make a run in CIF,” Mitrovitch said.
A Div. 1 school, Sotelo knew her girls would be in for a tough match against Hart, however, she credited her team with a tough performance after falling behind early the way they did.
“Out of all the negative things you could say there is always find something positive like a silver lining. We have a lot of things to work on but I commend them for catching up and capitalizing on their mistake,” Sotelo said.
“I think it is a good piece of humble pie. ‘I think we are going to be good this year,’ then boom and now we have to work harder every single day.”
For Ingram, she also found a silver lining in the tough loss.
“This isn’t obviously the result we wanted but this is a very good team and it gives us good competition and a way to grow,” Ingram said.
As one of the team’s leaders, Ingram understood the importance of everyone walking off the field with their heads held high.
She also still has a high belief in her teams’ ability this season.
“I have really high hopes for this team. Last year I was a varsity player and it was all new to me but this year we have a junior heavy class and we are all used to each other and that will help us in the long run,” Ingram said.