A five-goal performance from sophomore Joanna Espinoza guided the Taft College women’s soccer team to the championship in last weekend’s Hartnell College tournament in Salinas.
The Cougars pushed their early season record to 3-0 by defeating Shasta 2-1 and Cabrillo 7-3.
“It was a very good weekend for us,” said head coach Myisha Cutrona. “I’m really excited. We are 3-0 right now and are definitely playing very well. We have so much talent and a great attitude. That was a great trip for us, and the team really bonded.”
The Cougars got off to a slow start in the opener on Friday against Shasta, falling behind 1-0 in the first half.
But in the 57th minute Cristina Salazar scored the tying goal on a pass from Mandy Lopez and eight minutes later Espinoza put away what proved to be the winning goal – also on a pass from Lopez.
Cutrona said the Cougars got a defensive scare when sophomore Daisy Guitron went down with an injury and she had to juggle the lineup.
“She is one of our star players and such a dominating force on defense,” she said. “I put Saida Sandoval in the back and she did a tremendous job.”
The Cougars thought they had a third goal but it was waived off on an offside call.
“The video clearly shows it wasn’t even close to being offside so we should have had a third goal,” she said.
Once again, as they did in winning their season opener against Allan Hancock, the Cougars came out a little sluggish and had trouble finding the net.
“We came out flat in the first half but came out on fire in the second half.”
Goalkeeper Lizette Gomez had three saves.
In Saturday’s match with Cabrillo, who blanked Shasta 3-0, the Cougars ran up against a bigger, more physical team.
After spotting the Seahawks a quick 2-0 lead the Cougars surged back to draw even at the break on goals by Espinoza in the 17th and 28th minutes with Salazar and Lopez getting credit for the assists.
TC scored in the first minute of the second half, but Cabrillo got a free kick goal to knot it again 3-3.
Espinoza found the net again on a pass from Salazar, Victoria Escobar scored off an assist from Selina Molina, Espinoza teamed up with Molina for TC’s fifth goal, got the sixth off an assist from Lopez and the seventh came on a free kick from Emily Galland.
Page 2 of 2 - The seven goals is a new high for the young program.
The goal onslaught also allowed Cutrona to clear her bench.
“With our depth we were able to put in our subs and get them some experience early in the season and let our starters have a rest.”
The Cougars have three tough road assignments over the next week: this afternoon at Moorpark College, Friday at southern California power Santa Barbara City College and next Tuesday at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita.
“We have a very tough schedule,” Cutrona said. “Santa Barbara is always one of the top teams in the state. That should be a good test for us.”