Malia Venegas and Grace Fedor combined for a clean sheet, and the San Marcos High girls’ soccer team battled to a scoreless tie with first-place Ventura on Thursday night at Warkentin Stadium.
Ventura came into the match with a 14-3 overall record, including a 7-1 record in Channel League play, but the Royals (6-6-5 overall, 3-4-4 Channel League) withstood a flurry of dangerous attacks by the Cougars in the final four minutes and stoppage time, to come away with a draw.
“This is our home and we want to make this place a fortress,” said San Marcos coach Brian Ziegenhagen. “I don’t think we played our best game in the first half, but I gave the girls a really good talk at halftime and they responded really well.”
San Marcos struggled to establish confidence offensively in the first half, but in the 39th minute Caitlin Sparks sent a cross into the box that sailed towards goal, but was comfortably saved by Ventura goalkeeper Peyton Mendez.
The Royals showed drastic improvement in the early stages of the second half and controlled possession leading up to a left-footed shot by Nicolly Oh that slid just wide of the far post in the 44th minute.
Despite solid play by San Marcos’ starting goalkeeper Venegas, the Royals inserted Fedor into the game in the 50th minute and she came up big down the stretch.
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“Traditionally they have both shared the time, but there have been games where we select just one and the other rests,” Ziegenhagen said. “They’ve been a part of the program for four years and I trust both of them.”
Ventura gained momentum as the second half progressed and earned four corner kicks in the second half, but could not find the back of the net despite creating quality opportunities.
“I told the girls ‘you all played hard, but we didn’t play efficiently,’”said Ventura coach Todd Tackett. “We had chances that we should have put away, but we didn’t. I give credit to San Marcos.They played tough and they’ve been playing tough lately.”
Fedor put a bow on the brilliant defensive effort by San Marcos with a diving save in stoppage time. Ventura had not tied in a match all season.
“I just asked for a lot of leadership and a lot of sacrifice. You have to struggle a little bit as a team,” Zigenhagen said of his team’s last ditch defending. “You have to be willing to put your body on the line. The goalies were brilliant, we got back into a defensive shape, we were blocking and hoping for the best. It was a really good effort by the girls.”