The Taft 7-12 girls soccer team had one last game before the post season this week and flexed their muscle over a struggling league opponent.
Facing a winless Gervais team in the Taft home finale Oct. 24, the Lady Tigers jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.
“The kids played a great first half,” head coach Joey Arce-Torres said. “No shots on goal against us and we moved the ball well offensively.”
Taft sophomore Chloe Peterson was red hot in the opening minutes of the game, scoring two goals to give Taft a 2-0 advantage. Then late in the first half, junior Avery Nightengale continued her impressive second half of the season by scoring a third Taft goal giving them a 3-0 advantage at half.
“Sammy Halferty and Sage Ulrich controlled everything in the middle and sent beautiful passes to open teammates,” Arce-Torres said of their first half play. “With a dominant performance up front, we were able to empty our bench early and give playing time to many of our younger players.”
At halftime, Taft took a moment to recognize its five seniors on the roster, which included Halferty, Corey Van Damme, Ella Knott, Fatima Lupercio and Autumn Ellis.
“I am so proud of those seniors, especially Sammy and Fatima who played all four years and were significant leaders from June to October, they will be dearly missed!” Arce-Torres said.
In the second half, the Lady Tigers went into cruise control. Recognizing that the visiting Gervais Cougars were struggling, Arce-Torres preached sportsmanship and humility to his team as he made adjustments to his lineup.
“We changed out our key players and put them on defensive roles,” Arce-Torres said. “Every JV athlete suited up and each had significant minutes today in our final home match.”
Knowing how much she has meant to the Taft soccer program, Arce-Torres gave Halferty an opportunity to convert a penalty kick in the second half, which she did with ease, giving Taft a 4-0 lead. After completely emptying the bench, sophomore Lucy Reyes had her opportunity and put in the final score of the evening, giving Taft a 5-0 win.
“Our seniors finished the match on the field and each on the back defensive line where they passed and assisted their younger teammates with direction and praise to close out the game,” Arce-Torres said.
The Lady Tigers ended the regular season with a 5-8 overall record and 5-7 in league play, which landed them in 5th place in the competitive Special District 2 league. The Tigers now await their matchup for the district playoffs and if they win two games they will punch their ticket into the state tournament.
Regardless of what happens in the post-season, Arce-Torres feels he has accomplished his goal of teaching young kids how to be good people on and off the soccer field.
“I take that responsibility very seriously and prioritize it even more than the nuts and bolts of athletics,” he said. “I am hard on the kids, but they know at the end of the day, I love and respect each and every one of them but I will always be honest and direct about things like character, humility, kindness and sportsmanship. Overall, I think they all got a passing grade this season.”