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Tesoro 13, Varsity 12 (OT)

April 26, 2013

The South Coast League finale between the Trabuco Hills Mustangs and the visiting Tesoro Titans proved to be a see-saw affair that, at times, reminded you of those days of our youth when we were on that see-saw after eating too much candy.

And no matter how hard you swallowed, there was always that possibility that it would not end well.

The Mustangs opened the game as if it was a continuation of Tuesday’s rout of San Clemente; strong in the center circle, controlling draws, and dictating the pace of play.  Patient passing allowed time to set up the offense and, when passes didn’t connect, Alex Miller was tenacious in winning the ground ball battle.  Eventually Melanie Leong found herself in front of the Titan net and promptly gave her team an early lead.  Off of the next draw, Hannah Redwine controlled the ball, carried it into the zone, and found Jenelle Phillips for an easy goal.  After winning a 3rd consecutive draw, crisp ball movement around the offensive zone eventually led to the ball finding its way to Redwine in traffic, where she quickly converted to make the score 3-0.

After a Tesoro time-out, the Titans were able to gain control of the next draw and turned the pressure back onto the Mustang defense.  Niki Neely and Becca Ransom responded with very active defense and solid body position.  Tesoro eventually found an opening to notch their 1st goal.  Redwine continued to assert herself, playing the entire field and always being near the action; her outstanding play to knock down a Titan pass that would lead to a break-out was the first of many Redwine highlights.

As the Mustang defense seemed to solidify around Cyrena Malkowski’s net, their swarming coverage left a back-door opportunity open and the Titans were able to take advantage.

One could feel the momentum swinging as Tesoro started to control the center circle and the midfield play.  A break-away soon led to the tying goal.  Seemingly on queue, Trabuco Hills responded.  Great work from Redwine, Leong, and Hope Dodd kept the ball alive in a scramble, and Miller was able to locate Phillips for another point-blank score.  A burst of speed on the next possession allowed Dodd to beat the Titan defenders before she switched hands and buried her shot.

The Mustangs were starting to struggle with their passing game again, however, and the turnovers started to add up.  Madison DuMond was playing tough in front of Malkowski and helped keep the crease clear, but Tesoro was getting more and more high-quality scoring chances.  The Titans slipped in another goal before Kendall Derbyshire ripped the back of the net with a shot that seemed to have some extra motivation to it.  Another Titan goal preceded Dodd’s hard crease roll that led to a perfect feed to Leong in front of the net.  Malkowski was definitely on her game, making several key saves on shots taken within 5 feet of her crease that would allow Trabuco Hills to take a 7-5 lead into halftime.

Playing with a short bench, the break was badly needed for the Mustangs. As the 2nd half opened , Derbyshire received a great lead pass that led to a break-out from the Mustang end of the field and beat the defenders and the goalie for her 2nd of the game.  Dodd followed that up with a slick goal of her own and the lead was up to 4.

Numerous whistles disrupted the flow of the game and it became more of a plodding effort, which favored Tesoro with their disciplined offensive set-up.  Miller was strong in the midfield and Neely, Ransom, and Jackie Huse were effective in moving that ball out of the defensive zone, but turnovers were still plaguing the Mustangs.  Tesoro clawed back, with Trabuco Hills not being able to hold onto the ball, with 4 unanswered goals, most from right in front of the net, the last one coming after DuMond had made a terrific play to stop yet another point-blank shot but then a defensive breakdown on the other side left a cutting Titan completely free.

Suddenly tied at 9, the Mustangs looked a little shell-shocked.  After a time-out, Dodd looked like a player possessed, using a great individual effort to score and regain the lead for the Mustangs.  Dodd would tally 2 more within the next 90 seconds, giving her 5 for the game, and it seemed that the see-saw had tipped yet again.  But just like the kid that jumps off of the other side when you’re on the high end of the see-saw, a sickening thud came down as the Mustangs suddenly could not win a draw nor could they control the ball when opportunity arose.  Tesoro repeatedly set up camp in the Mustang end and, almost unbelievably, tied the score at 12 with less than 1 minute to play.  Overtime again, the third in recent weeks.

In the 1st overtime period, both teams seemed tentative and there was little or no flow to either offense.  Having received their 4th yellow card of the game, the Titans were playing one person short, which would seem to favor the Mustangs.  But fatigue was becoming a factor as almost every player on the field had logged heavy minutes in the game.  Malkowski was stellar, keeping her team in the game as the Tesoro shot totals increased.  After a scoreless period, the teams switched ends for the 2nd OT.  Both sides picked up their aggressiveness, and it was finally the Titans who broke the tie, scoring with approximately 1 minute remaining for their first lead of the game.  Again, the Mustangs were unable to control the draw, but did finally get the ball back with mere seconds to play.  After a couple of meaningless fouls, undoubtedly designed to slow down play, Redwine was left to attempt a desperation shot from just inside the restraining line, which the Titan goalie handled easily.  The exhausted squad from Trabuco Hills was left to ponder what might have been. It was a valiant effort and their reward should have been greater. These Mustangs have nothing to be ashamed of; they left it all on the field, and no one can ever ask for more from a player.

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