By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
The Moapa Valley High School Varsity Girls Soccer team played a rare busy schedule of three games last week. All three games contributed to a sense of confidence felt by the Pirate team going forward.
The first game came against SECTA on the road. The Roadrunners have been one of the more successful teams in the division for a few years. Typically Moapa brings competitive games, and this one was no different.
It was the Roadrunners that struck first in this match. A Joleen Alvarado goal for SECTA gave the Roadrunners a 1-0 lead in the first half. Both teams fought back and forth, but the score would remain the same, giving SECTA the win 1-0.
Despite the loss, the Pirates were able to learn and grow off of their performance in the game. “We started off so strong but we had a couple little breakdowns and they scored on one,” said head coach Lisa Cornwall. “It was one of the better games we’ve played against them. Even though we lost, it was very encouraging.”
The Pirates second game of the week came at home on Thursday against Chaparral. In this match, the Pirates lit up their home field. The offense was rolling, and ultimately the Pirates were able to run a lot of their strategies seamlessly.
The final score would be 8-0, thanks to goals from Christie Ericksen (who scored a hat trick for the second time this season), Italia Bracamontes, and Bailey Bunker, among others. The Pirates were also assisted by a strong defensive effort and a shutout in the net for goalkeeper Jessica Leon.
“It feels like we can actually finish and get goals in the back of the net,” Cornwall said. “It was perfect for us to come back to, after SECTA. We were able to work out what we saw in film in that game.”
In their third and final game of the week, the Pirates hosted Rancho for a Friday afternoon game that had personal battles on the line. Last year, Pirate athlete Lexi Schraft went down with a broken leg during a home game against the Rams. That injury put Schraft out for the rest of the season. So she looked to this game with hopes of returning stronger.
The rest of the Pirate team was strong as well. Ashlyn Western scored a goal early to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Later in the half, the Pirates had a few opportunities at the net, but fell short. A Rancho header over the outstretched arms of Jessica Leon tied the game at 1-1.
Later in the first half, Moapa Valley sophomore Kaitlyn Hopkins capitalized on an opening opportunity from the right side and put her team up 2-1 going into the halftime break. In the second half, the Pirates offense was dynamic, setting up many opportunities.
Ultimately, it would be Christie Ericksen that broke through to give the Pirates a 3-1 lead. Rancho responded with a goal on a free kick to tighten the gap.
The Pirates were in need of a goal to put the game out of reach, and both sides were going back and forth.
Late in the game, Schraft got the taste of redemption she was hoping for. She split defenders with an on-target pass to Ericksen who scored on the opportunity. The Pirates would hold on for a 4-2 win.
“Two years ago, they beat us 6-1,” Cornwall recalled. “So for us to go back and contend and win was awesome. We were able to move the ball pretty well.”
Cornwall also noted that the mindset of the girls has changed in a positive way. “A lot of times a team scores and you put your head down in soccer,” she said. “But they’re realizing it doesn’t take much time to score, so they always believe that they can win it, and that they can score it too.”
One of the story lines this year has certainly been the explosion of Christie Ericksen for the Pirates in the scoring department. “You don’t ever really bank on foreign exchange students to help a whole lot, so for her to come in and be a finisher for us is just a plus,” Cornwall said. “It isn’t one we planned on, but when she gets close to the goal, she does a good job of getting the ball in the back of the net. What’s great is she is also very good at setting up her teammates for opportunities near the goal.”