Aloha girls soccer fights back, drops non-league match to Blues
To reach the second round of the Class 6A postseason again and continue the upward orbit that began with the biggest upset of the 2017 playoffs, Aloha will need more efforts like the final 20 minutes of action against St. Mary's.
Sluggish for the first 60 minutes of play or so, the Warriors were turned frantic and fierce by a hypnotic Yaire Dolores Lopez goal that chopped the St. Mary's lead in half, 2-1. Suddenly, Aloha was alive and animated, sensing a tie was near with 20 minutes to go in the second half. However, the Blues booted home an insurance goal with seven minutes remaining and kept the Warriors away from the net to seal a 3-1 win on Tuesday night at Aloha High School.
Still, with the grimy Metro League ahead and elevated playoff hopes, Aloha (1-1-1) took away a tough lesson, one where information can be gleaned and applied going forward.
"We have to compete for a full game, not wait for the final 40 (minutes)," Aloha head coach Curtis Selby said. "That's the key. We have to do better as a team, but it's a long season. Tonight was just an example of how we're growing. Every game is beneficial and we learn something every time. As long as the girls keep thinking about that and learning from their experiences, you can only get better. Tomorrow it's off to the training grounds and away we go."
"We were there, we just weren't 100 percent there," Dolores Lopez said. "We'll work on it. I think we can go far now and be even better this year."
Aloha brings back 14 players off last year's team, which reached the second round of the 6A playoffs as a No. 28 seed after knocking off No. 4 West Linn in a shocking upset on the road. Eleven of those returners are seniors including all-league goalie Carson Feurbacher, which only raises the bar for a program that's been in the playoffs the past four years.
"I think the experience level is going to show and it'll be a fun season," Selby said. "Our league is tough with Sunset and Jesuit who were in the state finals against each other. It's been those two teams the past couple of years, so if you can break the top three, you're doing great. That's the goal this year."
After a frustrating first 60 minutes of little offensive push from the Warriors, Dolores Lopez knocked down the wall. A header skipped ahead of the forward, who, with the entire Blues' backline in hot pursuit, chased down the ball, sagely waited for the St. Mary's goalie to come out and flicked in Aloha's first goal of the game midway through the second half.
"You get her out in the open field and she's going to put them away," Selby said. "She's dangerous. Size doesn't matter. She's quick, she can run and finish, so she's a handful. Plus, we have our other forwards out there banging around. Teams get nervous for that big hammer and the little quick one comes through and finishes it off."
Dolores is a diminutive 5-foot-2 on her tippy toes in cleats, but she's an unflinching dynamo forward with speed and endurance for days. The junior is coming off a first-team All-Metro season, which is telling of her talent considering all of the stars aligning the league.
"I know I'm tiny, but I never fall unless I get fouled," Dolores Lopez said with a smile. "I think that's due to my speed. And when I'm close to the net, I try to be calm because I know if I freak out I'm going to miss it."
Abruptly, St. Mary's' lead was sliced in half. Dolores Lopez, Adeline Becker, Lexis Ross, Kaitlyn Ross and De'-Sha Vandusen began pushing forward, moving the ball into Blues' territory with better pace and passing. The score was just the spark Aloha needed as the defense shored up and the Warriors worked to strike. The tying goal never materialized, but the second half was more of what Selby wants to see with Metro starting on Sept. 27 at Mountainside.
"They don't let one or even two goals get them down," Selby said. "They competed hard all the way down to the end."
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