Joanna Espinosa's hat trick Tuesday guided the Taft College women's soccer team to its third victory in the last four games.
Espinosa, a freshman midfielder from Highland High in Bakersfield, broke a tie in the 77th minute to give the Cougars a 3-2 victory over visiting College of the Sequoias.
"She's just awesome," said head coach Myisha Cutrona. "She is why we want to coach. She just never has a bad game, and the other players feed off that."
Espinosa's winning goal came on a free kick just outside the box and to the right of the goal. It sailed beyond the reach of the goalie and hit the bottom of the crossbar.
It had the right spin on it to cause the ball to curl up and into the top of the net.
COS scored first "when our keeper left the net open. I still haven't figured how she left the net so wide open."
Melissa Leyva took advantage of the opportunity.
Espinosa got the Cougars even with a goal off a pass from Brittany Hernandez, and the same duo combined to give TC a 2-1 halftime lead.
However, the Giants surged back to get a tying goal – also from Leyva – at the beginning of the second half.
"We tend to relax with a lead, and if we are going to beat Fresno and go into the playoffs we just can't do that," Cutrona said.
Again, Daisy Guitron played a key role in the Cougars' defensive effort.
"Daisy had another great game for us, and that was really crucial because our other two defenders had a bad game," the coach said.
Espinosa's hat trick gives her 11 goals on the season and leads the team. She also has three assists.
Hernandez's assists were her fifth and sixth and put her into the team lead in that category.
Goalie Angelica Garcia had two saves.
The win pushed the Cougar record to 7-7-2 while COS is 7-7-1.
It also moved Taft up in the state power rankings.
"We moved up to 12th in northern California, and that is the highest we have ever been ranked," Cutrona said. "I hope that inspires us."
Tuesday's win was the third for the Cougars against Sequoias. The teams will meet again in Visalia Nov. 2.
TC is on the road today in Palm Desert where they take on winless College of the Desert.