Depleted girls’ soccer team falls short against Santa Clara

Paly vs. Santa Clara

Following a recent ruling that prohibited nine players from participating on the Palo Alto High School girls’ varsity soccer team (2-3-0), the Vikings suffered a 0-2 defeat against the Santa Clara Bruins (3-1-1) Friday at home after an intense back-and-forth struggle in the first half.

The Santa Clara Valley Athletic League banned nine players from competing in league games after they violated SCVAL regulations. The SCVAL board reaffirmed its decision on Jan. 19 despite a last-minute plea from Paly Principal Brent Kline.

According to Viking freshman center midfielder Areet Rao, many of the nine suspended players were critical to the team, and the team had to scramble for substitutes before league matches began. Multiple players from junior varsity moved up to account for the player shortage.

“So many talented players were on that list of people who got suspended,” Rao said. “Adapting to the new players that moved up has been pretty difficult, but there are tons of talented players on junior varsity, and them moving up has only made our team stronger.”

Vikings girls’ soccer head coach Jeremy Romero said the team had an optimistic attitude despite coming off a previous loss. 

“Coming into the game, our mentality was to play our game and not to play the other team’s game,” Romero said. “Meaning, just play what we know how to play, which is to keep the ball.”

The Vikings started off mounting a few goal opportunities and preventing the Santa Clara offense from scoring. Initially, both teams failed to capitalize on free kicks and corner kicks, and both teams’ defense remained strong.

The game was extremely close at the beginning, with both sides competing to score the first goal of the match.

“It felt pretty intense because they are good team, so there were lots of fouls and lots of battles,” Rao said. “Both teams were waiting to make a goal.”

Towards the end of the first half, Santa Clara began to show their dominance with growing possession as well as goal opportunities, having more than double the number of attempted shots and shots on goal as the Vikings. The Bruins had a string of shot attempts, one of which by junior forward Alina Ferreira ricocheted off of the post. However, the Viking defense held firm, and the half ended with a score of 0-0. 

Despite the Vikings keeping consistent pressure throughout the second half, its defense slowly faltered. Only five minutes into the second half, Bruin sophomore forward Fiona McCormick narrowly scored off of a through pass, giving the Bruins the first lead of the game with a score of 0-1. 

According to McCormick, she was able to score through the team’s consistent use of through passes into the open space behind the Viking defenders

“Our strategy to score was just catching their defense off guard and running behind [the defense] to use the space behind them to get the goal,” McCormick said. 

The Vikings’ defense continued to decline as Santa Clara continuously attempted shots at the goal. Ferreira scored off of another through-pass with 15 minutes left in the half, setting the score to 0-2. The Bruins continued to dominate in the remaining minutes, and a few missed shots by the Vikings ended the match.

Bruins head coach Brad Comstock said that although Santa Clara was off to a rocky start, they quickly gained focus and won the game.

“We just didn’t handle ourselves well in the first half,” Comstock said. “In the second half, we played a lot better and had more control, but it was still not an A-game from us. If you walk away with a win, you take it, especially when you’re playing against Paly.”

According to Ferreira, keeping composure was a critical factor that allowed the Bruins to score twice.

“Having composure with each other is part of being a team because we’re trying to play down the middle, but it wasn’t working,” Ferreira said. “We have to take a deep breath and play with each other as part of a team.”

According to Romero, the Vikings will not let the loss against Santa Clara set them back.

“We’ll get back on the practice field,” Romero said. “We’ll pay attention to the little details, the fine lines and go over the basics. The people that have mastered the basics and the easiest skills are the ones that thrive in the games.”

The Vikings are set to play their next game at 7 p.m. Friday against the Mountain View Spartans (3-1-1) at home.

All photos by Daniel Garepis-Holland