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Lancer defense ready for Colfaxs balanced attack
East Union keeper Adrieanna Wood (right), gets in position behind the defensive wall as Foothill sets up for a free kick during last Thursdays Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff opener at Dino Cunial Field. - photo by HIME ROMERO


• DIVISION IV: Colfax at East Union, semifinal game. Kickoff: Today, 7 p.m.
• DIVISION VII: Ripon Christian at Victory Christian, semifinal game. Kickoff: Today, 3:30 p.m.
• ADMISSION: Adults, $6; Students (K-12), $4; Children (5-under), Free.

Ashley Almeida dove to her left, batting a rocket shot out of bounds.

Moments earlier, Adrieanna Wood bounced back onto her feet just in time to make a sprawling save at the right post.

“You see why I have to platoon them,” whispered East Union girls soccer coach Jim Todd during Monday’s finishing drill.

The Lancers might have one of the area’s more explosive offenses, but they’ve quietly built a fortress around their goal. East Union has been burned just 12 times in 23 games and the lock-down Lancers have recorded 13 shutouts.

No. 14 could be history making. No. 1 East Union can clinch the program’s first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section finals appearance tonight with a win over No. 4 Colfax. The winner will play the winner of No. 2 Placer and No. 3 Vista del Lago in Saturday’s final.

The Falcons will make the two-hour drive to Dino Cunial Field, where the Lancers (21-1-2) haven’t lost all season.

Kickoff has been pushed back to 7 to accommodate for Colfax’s travel.

The Falcons (12-5-4) fly into the Division IV semifinal round following a 3-1 victory over Woodland.

The Pioneer Valley co-champions possess a balanced attack. Six players have scored four goals or more, while six have recorded six or more assists.

Senior Katy Thomas and sophomore Katie Garcia have anchored the attack. Garcia has 15 goals and seven assists, while Thomas leads the team with 16 goals.

Senior Kelly Harris has 11 assists and junior Emily Klug has nine goals and six assists.

Todd is keenly aware of the Falcons’ across-the-board production. He realizes Colfax will be an entirely different animal than Foothill, which leaned heavily on two players.

“Colfax, it looks like all their goals and assists are distributed across the board,” Todd said. “With Foothill, all we had to do was mark a couple of players. Colfax, on the other hand, has like 120 people who have scored three or four goals with five or six assists.”

Foothill’s “Big Two” gave East Union quite the scare on Thursday night.

The eighth-seeded Mustangs pushed the Lancers to the brink, forging a 2-2 tie with two second-half goals.

East Union advanced on a 78th-minute strike by Meghan Wallace, who froze Foothill’s goalie with a turnaround volley.

“We have to go out and play our game,” Todd said. “We need to execute opportunities and make sure they don’t have opportunities to address on the field. We have to be on our game, alert to everything coming.”

Last Thursday’s victory was a low point for the Lancers’ lock-down defense.

It was just the third time all season the defense has allowed two goals in a game, and a first for Wood. The sophomore relieved Almeida at the intermission. Almeida didn’t face a single shot in 40 minutes.

Wood has a .547 goals against average with 74 saves in 877 minutes, while Almeida, a senior, has 48 saves and a .556 GAA in 863 minutes.

“We don’t hold anybody’s feet to the coals on that. Anna was in the box at the moment. She had a lousy game because of those two goals,” Todd said. “We told her, ‘Remember what we’ve always talked about – it has to get through 10 other players before you.’

“(Those goals were) a mental lapse across the board. I think, collectively, they let their guard down.”

Fortunately for Todd, East Union’s guardians have a short memory.

The Lancers’ defensive unit – anchored by seniors Erica daSilva and Kianna Lamont and junior Rachel Sianez – were in top form during Monday’s drills.

At one point, the defense had outscored the offense – despite playing shorthanded and having to shoot on smaller goals.

Expect the defense’s best tonight. Each time East Union has surrendered two goals, it has responded with four-game winning streaks with six shutouts.

“It starts with Rachel and Kianna and it includes Erica. They’re most aware of who is coming down,” Todd said. “If Rachel gets pulled out in a situation, it’s critical for Erica and (Kianna) to swap back.

“They’ve got the defensive eyes out there. They don’t need us moving them like chess pieces. They’ve got trained defensive minds; they know how to react and compensate.”