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Los Osos edges El Toro at Irvine Team Challenge

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

IRVINE- The El Toro girls soccer team went toe to toe with one of the top teams in the CIF-SS Division 1 on Friday, and though they ultimately fell short in their quest to pull out a big victory, there were several positives to suggest that better days are ahead for the Chargers.
    
Freshman Devyn Kelsey tallied the lone goal of the match, as the Los Osos Grizzlies edged El Toro 1-0 in Pool Play of the Irvine Team Challenge Friday at Heritage Park.
    
The Grizzlies defeated Sunny Hills to win the CIF-SS Division 2 championship last March before falling to Aliso Niguel in the CIF Southern California Division 1 Regional championship match. Los Osos moved up to CIF-SS Division 1 this season and is currently ranked No. 2 behind the Wolverines.
    
The Chargers and Grizzlies both opened the match looking for scoring opportunities amidst quality defense on both sides.
    
El Toro had the first scoring chance of the match in the seventh minute, but a shot by senior Sarah Henderson sailed wide of the far post corner of the goal.
    
The Grizzlies took advantage of their best scoring chance of the match in the 10th minute. Off a well-timed pass from teammate Karly Whiteman, Kelsey received the ball on the run and hit a curving line drive shot that just eluded the dive of Chargers junior goalie Keana Collier-Mulcahy and nestled the far post corner of the goal.
    
“She (Whiteman) was going toward the defender to try and pull her closer,” Kelsey said.  “I was making a run and she touched me wide. I was able to get the shot off into the corner.”
    
El Toro controlled possession throughout the remainder of the half and had multiple scoring opportunities. But Grizzlies junior goalie Carissa Christenson came up with two big plays just past the midway point of the half. In the 16th minute, she made a lunging save to stop a shot by senior Sascha Hauser. Two minutes later, she made a diving save to her right to prevent a shot by senior Kendall Thrall from tying the match.

Christenson finished the match with six saves.    

Los Osos nearly added to the lead three minutes into the second half, but a header from Chloe Watson off a corner kick ricocheted off the crossbar.
    
El Toro’s offense once again began to attack the Grizzlies attacking third with sustained possession, as freshman Kaiya McCullough helped forced two corner kick opportunities. But the Chargers were unable to convert their scoring opportunitues.
    
Led by sophomore Stephanie Sixsmith and senior Devan Ellison, the Chargers defense held off the Grizzlies’ attack in the second half and limited them to two shot attempts.
    
El Toro had one last scoring chance with less than eight minutes remaining, but a shot by Henderson floated wide of the near post.
    
Despite the loss, Chargers coach Steve Van Dam acknowledged the effort of his team is reason for optimism moving forward.
    
“The girls played outstanding soccer, worked well together, and executed the game plan,” Van Dam said. “Sometimes you don’t put the ball in the back of the net, but we played a quality team like Los Osos tight. I think we have the talent to win many games this year and this was a quality step toward that.”
    
Though the Grizzlies managed to hold on for the win, head coach Mychal Armstrong admitted that the Chargers’ effort helped them control large portions of the match  
    
“El Toro played hard, dictated the pace, and did what they were supposed to do,” Grizzlies coach Mychal Armstrong said. “This was our first game playing with a full team, and while we have the talent and skill, we don’t have the harmony or communication yet.”


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