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Sunny Hills ties No. 4 Dana Hills, advances to Aliso Cup quarterfinals
DANA POINT- Sunny Hills head coach Jeff Gordon knew that his team would be in for a big early season litmus test on Thursday.
Playing on the road against No. 4 Dana Hills would provide his team the perfect opportunity to see how they measured up against one of the county’s top teams.
The Lancers showed themselves to be up for the match and produced an effort that helped them move on into the quarterfinals of the Aliso Cup tournament, as Sunny Hills and Dana Hills played to a 1-1 tie in a Pool F match at Dana Hills.
“We know they are one of the top teams in Orange County and to come here and get a tie is a great result for us,” Lancers coach Jeff Gordon said. “We’re a championship program that battles and competes for every single ball which is the great leveler.”
Though the Dolphins (1-0-1) and Lancers (2-1-1) each finished pool play with 1-0-1 records, Sunny Hills will advance to the quarterfinals by virtue of allowing fewer goals in pool play.
Sunny Hills was on the attack early and took 1-0 lead in the second minute. After a Dolphins foul, junior Maribell Morales sent a high arching free kick that sailed over the head of Dolphins junior goalie Meghan Dickmann and ricocheted off the cross bar. Junior Michaila Martin managed to get to the loose ball right in front of the goal and head a shot into the back of the net.
“I was just looking for the rebound and I went for it,” Martin said. “We came out here knowing that if we played with a lot of heart and played for each other, we could come out with a good result.”
Dana Hills was unable to take advantage of several set piece opportunities throughout the first half, while the Lancers managed to possess the ball into the Dolphins attacking third for a good portion of the half.
Sunny Hills out-shot Dana Hills 5-3 and took a one goal advantage into the intermission.
Dolphins head coach Sheena Jarvis had a blunt assessment of the team’s first half effort.
“Sunny Hills dominated us,” Jarvis said. “Our communication was lacking and that’s was one of the points that I stressed at halftime.”
It was a much more aggressive Dana Hills’ attack that opened the second half. Led by senior Sydnie Zuccolotto and junior Brittany Mueller, the Dolphins began to establish possession into the Lancers’ attacking third and made several deep runs toward the goal.
The Lancers’ defense came up with two big plays in the 56th minute, as Morales managed to head a corner kick away from the middle of the box in heavy traffic and sophomore goalie Amanda Poertner slapped away a Dolphins follow up shot attempt.
Dana Hills once again had a chance to tie in the 63rd minute, but after a wild scramble in front of the net, senior Emma Gullickson managed to get off a shot that was just wide of the far post.
The Dolphins would find the match equalizer one minute later. After receiving a pass from Mueller, senior Hannah Ris broke free of the Lancers defense in the middle of the box and managed to slip a shot to the right of Poertner and into the corner of the goal.
“We really wanted that goal and I saw an opportunity,” Ris said. “There was a gap between the defense, and I was able to use my body to bring the ball down and aim for the corner.”
Dana Hills continued to pressure the Lancers defense throughout the latter portion of the second half, but was unable to breakthrough before the final whistle.
“We had to make this game a little unorthodox because they are a great team and our goal was to try and lock them in on our half,” Gordon said. “It almost worked and we were one clear away from preventing the counter that led to the goal.
Though the Dolphins were unable to advance into the quarterfinals, Jarvis was pleased with her team’s improved play in the second half.
“I told the girls to try and win the second half and I’m definitely happy that we came back to tie, ” Jarvis said. “Half of our team is brand new and we’re still working on the cohesiveness of everything and learning how to play with everyone.”