After the San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande High girls soccer teams played to a scoreless draw Jan. 17 and had allowed just nine goals in a combined 19 league matches, Monday’s pivotal PAC 7 contest figured to be another defensive battle.
Instead, the floodgates opened at Doug Hitchen Stadium with the Eagles riding the wave of two second-half goals by Kiana Parker to top the Tigers 4-2 and move within a game of their second straight league title.
“Well, we finally learned to finish,” said Parker, whose sliding shot in the 53rd minute broke a 2-2 tie. “It was a little bit of a struggle for us (to score) this year, because we are a young team. I think just getting into a groove and working together took a little more time than we hoped, but we finally pulled it out.”
The Eagles (14-4-4, 8-0-3 PAC 7) were unbeaten through 10 league games despite averaging a little more than one goal per match, relying on defense to get results.
This time around, the offense came alive when it needed to most.
After Kelsey Shetler gave San Luis Obispo an early 1-0 lead, Arroyo Grande got first-half goals from Rocio Romero and Richelle Knupper to go up 2-1 at halftime.
“We haven’t been hitting them, and then all of a sudden this happens,” coach Bob Wilson said. “It was nice balance of who showed up to get the goals, too. I told them earlier that we can’t depend on just one player getting all of our goals. We spread it out tonight, and that was the difference.”
The Tigers (14-4-3, 7-2-1) tied the game at 2-2 six minutes into the second half, when Sierra Nunes snuck a shot past Kendall Bowers inside the near post.
Less than 10 minutes later, Parker ran onto a loose ball in the 18-yard box, sliding to the ball to out-touch San Luis Obispo goalie Lily McCann and push it into the net.
“This was a really intense game,” Parker said. “It was back and forth all day, and I think we really proved ourselves.”
The junior put the finishing touches on the win in the 70th minute, as she emphatically blasted a rolling shot from Demi Wack into an empty net.
“(Parker) is a scrapper,” Wilson said. “Richelle Knupper is like that, too. We’ve got two people up there that other teams don’t want anything to do with, because they’re just going to beat them up.”
Arroyo Grande heads to Paso Robles on Wednesday, and a win over the Bearcats (3-7 PAC 7) would mean the Eagles successfully defend last year’s league title after dealing with turnover throughout the lineup.
“It’s been fantastic,” Wilson said. “We’ve got three seniors that start and only five total, and we start four or five sophomores. They’ve just done a good job growing, developing and getting better the whole time. It’s been impressive.”
San Luis Obispo 1, Arroyo Grande 0
The Tigers got the game-winning goal from Peter Delkeskamp with two minutes remaining to vault San Luis Obispo into a three-way logjam with Arroyo Grande and Pioneer Valley atop the PAC 7 standings.
Delkeskamp scored on a header off a free kick from Lukas Holocher, who sent the ball in from just next to the corner flag.
Cameron Wright made nine saves for the Tigers (17-4-2, 8-2 PAC 7), who host St. Joseph on Wednesday and Righetti on Friday.
The Eagles (14-5-2, 9-2) finish the regular season Wednesday at Paso Robles. Pioneer Valley entered Monday’s game against Righetti with an 8-2 mark in league play, and the Panthers round out their league schedule at home Friday against Atascadero.