Injury-riddled Taft College hosts the state’s No. 6-ranked soccer team today in a Central Valley Conference game that could have playoff implications for the Cougars.
A solid outing against the defending champion Rams could help Taft in power rankings that determine playoff seedings.
The challenge is big but made even harder because of an ankle injury to the team’s top player – Joanna Esponoza, who was hurt a week ago in a win over College of the Sequoias.
“Right now, she’s doubtful,” said head coach Myisha Cutrona Wednesday night. “If she’s not completely ready she wont’ play. We can’t afford to risk it.”
Another player is hobbled with an ankle injury too and a third is out with a concussion.
“We’re down to 14 players counting our goalies,” Cutrona said, and that factors heavily into the team’s approach against Fresno.
“We don’t have the bench strength,” she said. “Going head up with Fresno will wear us out. We’ll have to play good defense and try to catch them off-guard with a counter-attack.”
The Cougars (6-6-2) tuned up for the Fresno clash by beating CVC doormat West Hills Lemoore (1-11-1) on Tuesday by a score of 4-1.
“We didn’t play our best, but we did score goals,” Cutrona said. “We started out kind of flat – really slow.”
TC led 1-0 at halftime on a goal in the 25th minute by McKenzie Fain off an assist from Brittany Hernandez.
The coach wasn’t happy, though.
“I told them we needed to put this game away,” she said. “The longer we let them (West Hills) hang around the more confidence it gives them.”
Her team responded.
Taft High product Daisy Guitron scored back-to-back goals to put the game away.
Mandy Lopez got the assists on both goals.
Leilani Ponce adding the icing with a goal after taking a pass from Selina Molina.
“We were never threatened,” Cutrona said.
Goalie Angelica Garcia had two saves.
Taft and Fresno are tied for the conference lead with 2-0-0 records, but that will change today. The Rams are 8-4-2 and ranked sixth in the state and second in northern California. The Cougars are 14th in NorCal and 36th in the state.
TC added another game to its schedule. They will play College of the Sequoias next Tuesday in Taft at 1 p.m.
“They needed another game and called us,” Cutrona said.
Even though COS is a conference opponent, it won’t count in the CVC standings.