On a blustery day at Mission High School, Bears girls’ soccer coach Scott Kennedy decided to establish momentum first against Balboa and worry about protecting it later.
And in a game pitting two teams who figure to be battling for a spot in the Academic Athletic Association playoffs, the gamble paid off — barely.
Mission took the strong wind at its back to start the match, notching two goals and keeping the ball in the Buccaneers’ end for nearly the entire first half. Ibette Miranda then scored in the first minute after the intermission to give the Bears a 3-0 lead, and Mission survived a prolonged Balboa attack over the final 30 minutes to win 3-2.
The win, combined with Washington’s 4-0 loss to Lowell, puts Mission (6-3, 4-1) in first place in the AAA’s Rueda Division, a half-game ahead of the Eagles (3-1-2, 3-1-1).
"We wanted to get the advantage right away and then try to hold on, because if they got ahead, it would have been tough," Kennedy said. "This is the best team in terms of the girls meshing together we’ve had here in a while."
The Bears scored both of their first-half goals on set pieces, with Jennifer Cervantes curling in a free kick from 20 yards away in the 11th minute and Samira Zebarjadian knocking a corner kick off a Balboa defender and over the goal line in the 21st.
But after Miranda’s right-footed goal on a partial breakaway at the outset of the second half, it was all Balboa. Forward Sonora Eley O’Reilly created several chances before burying a nice goal off a nice through-ball from Karla Gallardo in the 64th minute and Jane Jacobs caromed a corner kick off the head of a Mission defender four minutes later to make it 3-2.
Balboa kept the pressure on for the rest of the game and Aliyyah Abdullah’s shot from 25 yards out slid just wide of the left post with just minutes remaining. But before they could equalize, the Buccaneers (2-2-1) ran out of time.
"We almost had it and I’m pleased with how the girls never gave up," seventh-year Balboa coach Rocio Ramirez said. "We haven’t made the playoffs in eight years, but I’ve never had a team this motivated to get there."
Mission 3, Balboa 2