Scrappy ‘Dogs win fifth straight game
Cruz Maestas’ goal 15 minutes into the first half was a scrappy score worthy of a scrappy Palisade High School girls soccer team, which made it stand for a 1-0 victory over Delta at Walker Field on Tuesday night.
The single-goal victory was a far cry from the previous year’s squad, where NCAA Division I-bound Flannery Davis led a more finesse-focused team as coach Raina Sorensen was developing a hard-hitting crop of underclassmen.
The absence of a bona fide star has allowed new, more physical stars to emerge such as Maestas, a junior, and senior Natalie Combs. Maestas leads Palisade with seven goals, and Combs is slated to play for Division II Sonoma State (Calif.) in the fall.
The Bulldogs won their fifth straight contest, and this one was full of collisions, rough tackles and a few sneaky elbows. Maestas, trying to cap a solo breakaway, got tangled up with a Delta defender, but as she tumbled, the ball squirted off her head and shoulder and inside the left post past the goalie.
“The biggest thing, my five seniors, I’ve had them since they were freshmen,” Sorensen said. “They’ve known each other through middle school, they’ve played club (soccer) together, they came to me and said they want this to be their year. They’ve formed a real team bond, and instead of one player being the focus, it’s all 11.”
Senior Courtney Clark filled shoes frequented by Davis in the midfield and said a renewed focus on quick passes has helped spark the strong start to the season. The Bulldogs have scored 18 goals during the five-game run.
“I think this year we’re making connecting passes, give and goes, more playing to feet,” Clark said. “We’re well-rounded. It’s more a team effort rather than a couple people being the focus.”
The Bulldogs, although experienced, have to deal with a top-heavy Class 4A Western Slope League. Glenwood Springs is talent-rich and athletic, and Battle Mountain is currently undefeated. Sorensen said that although her team topped Glenwood 3-2 in the season opener, the Bulldogs have struggled to play a full game even as they’ve notched victories.
“I think tonight we thought we had the game won,” Sorensen said. “I think the last 25 minutes Delta just wanted it more. I think it’s the fact we haven’t lost yet. Tonight we played thinking we were going to win, rather than fighting for every win.
“We’re looking at it one game at a time rather than caring about a streak. If we play like we’ve been playing, the wins will come.”