The combined hustle of Daisy Valencia and Jadyn Shinn coupled with a gritty effort from ailing goalkeeper Callie Crain proved to be the difference for Sierra in its first-place showdown with visiting Central Catholic on Thursday.
The Timberwolves won 1-0 to maintain their spot atop the Valley Oak League standings.
“We knew this was going to be a battle all the way through,” Sierra coach Manuel Pires said. “They’re very rock solid defensively, their attack is very organized and they’re well coached. We knew we had to play our ‘A’ game here to get the three points.”
Both sides had their chances, but in the 57th minute Sierra (4-0 VOL, 13-1 overall) was able to break the ice.
Shinn chased down the ball as it skipped toward the end line to the right of the Central Catholic goal. She prevented it from going out of bounds and sent a negative pass across the penalty box before it settled. Valencia, who started at the top of the 18-yard line, reacted late but outsprinted Raiders defender Julia Ramos to knock it home.
“I was all the way back there,” Valencia said. “I wasn’t expecting to get the ball so I knew I had to speed it up. I knew that Jadyn worked hard for that ball and she set it up for me.”
The Timberwolves held on for dear life from there.
The rest was left up to the defense and Crain, who had already denied Mya Ridenour on a 1-on-1 breakaway just five minutes prior to the game’s lone goal. She came through again in the 70th and 74th minutes with diving stops on clean looks from Anna Ballatorre and Skyler Hoy. Crain is nursing a sore shoulder.
The Raiders (3-1, 7-3-1) outshot Sierra 6-3 in the second half.
“It’s all for the team,” she said. “It wasn’t just me, everybody back there was helping.”
Sierra had several players competing through various maladies, including starting defender Kayley Alvarado.
“Callie and kaley have that mentality; they want to be on the field to help the team,” Pires said. “It doesn’t matter what they’re going through, they’re going to battle.”
The match itself was stressful enough for both squads, but it was a scramble even beforehand. It was originally scheduled to be played at Central Catholic, but its field conditions forced a change in venues.
“Today was pretty hard,” Crain said. “We were in fourth period when we found out. Some of us had to go home and get our stuff, so it was real hectic going into the game.”