The Santa Barbara High girls soccer team got off to a rocky start at the beginning of the season. Down five key starters throughout their lineup, the Dons struggled through their first three games registering a record of 0-2-1.
In the last three games, however, Santa Barbara has flipped the script, putting together a mark of 2-0-1 thanks in large part to the return of those players, which includes Sofia Capelletti.
Last season, Capelletti was tied for the most points in the Channel League with 23 after scoring 10 goals and assisting on three others.
Since making her season debut on Monday, the forward has brought that offensive spark back into her teams’ lineup, which was noticeably missing with the Dons scoring zero goals in the first three games.
And, although it took three matches, the senior captain finally connected on her first goal on Saturday.
In a match filled with a bunch of missed opportunities in the first half, Capelletti’s goal in the 60th minute from the six-yard box gave Santa Barbara the edge over Templeton, paving the way for a 2-0 result at Warkentin Stadium.
“We told our girls sometimes we have to grind and grind and find a way to win and although it took 60 minutes, the girls grinded it out and got the victory so I am proud of the girls for sticking with it,” Santa Barbara coach Silas Fallstitch said.
The ball was played inside the box off a corner kick with Templeton players trying to clear it before Capelletti controlled it and slotted it past the keeper.
“I just saw it (the ball) coming toward me and I knew I had to prepare myself so I took a step back then I touched it and just kicked it to the corner since I saw the goalie wasn’t there,” Capelletti said.
Capelletti’s return to the lineup has brought back some offensive creativity that had been missing.
Although she did not score in Santa Barbara’s win against Moorpark on Monday, Fallstitch noted her ability to create chances for herself and for other players opened up the offense.
A captain, Capelletti’s feels that it is her duty to create as many opportunities for herself and her teammates to ultimately come away with success.
“That goal just felt really good because I feel like a lot of the pressure is on me because I am the main goal scorer,” Capelletti said.
“I am a captain so I have to find a way to put those shots in and win it for my team.”
Capelletti said that although it has been hard having to lead the team, it’s something that she wanted to do.
And, it has not come without its rewards.
“When I stepped in, I knew we were struggling, but I think we all just came together and knew we had to step it up and really start this season,” Capelletti said.
Capelletti has also been helped by the return of fellow teammates, senior goalkeeper Lia Rodriguez, junior midfielder Hayden Randolph, junior defender Liberty Tank, and freshman midfielder Kasia Wolf.
And, there is still more help on the way with senior captain Mikayla Thoits who is battling injury is expected to be back this season.
For Fallstitch, although the first three games of the season were a bit difficult, he said ultimately it will help the team in the long run.
“Having those starters is very exciting, but also knowing our second lineup of girls got those minutes early in the season shows we really have two lines of firepower,” Fallstitch said
“Those five girls add a lot of quality but it’s about having confidence from one through twenty-two.”
Before Capelletti’s goal on Saturday, it was the Santa Barbara defense which kept making plays.
For the majority of the first half, Templeton could not make many moves into the final third of the field, registering just four shots with two easily being saved by the Dons’ Carolina Koceman.
In the early parts of the second half, the Eagles were a little more aggressive and it nearly paid off as they placed a shot on goal, but right into the arms of Rodriguez, who had two saves.
The Eagles also had a free-kick and a couple of corners that caused some panic but were handled well by the Dons’ stingy defense.
After Capelletti’s goal in the 60th, the Eagles had their best look at an equalizer a few minutes later with a ball played into the final third and inside the penalty area.
Luckily, junior defender Lizzie Goss was there, tracking her mark, and did not allow Templeton’s Merran Grindley to get a touch on the ball as it went out of bounds, resulting in a goal kick.
In the 70th, the Dons got an insurance goal from Athena Bow-Graham, who netted her first of the season after volleying the ball past the keeper off a service pass from Goss.
When the final whistle blew the Santa Barbara defense had totaled it’s third consecutive clean sheet and fourth overall on the season.
For Goss, the success of the back row has not been a surprise.
“Our back line is super strong and that really has to do with us playing club together and playing since we were six years old so we just know how to play with each other,” Goss said.
“I think our defense is probably the strongest part of our team.”
Goss, who scored a 25-yard, game-winning free-kick goal against Moorpark, said that the way last year ended has left this team wanting to reach its potential this season.
“Last year was hard because we knew what we could do, we just did not execute and this year we are focusing on finishing and I just think it’s going to be a great season,” Goss said.
“I think we could definitely win the Channel League this season.”