San Luis Obispo High’s girls soccer team came into its home match against Righetti undefeated in the PAC 7.
But the Warriors (8-4, 5-1) scored two goals in the first half and held onto their advantage after a furious effort by the Tigers in the final minutes to win 2-1 on Friday.
Now with the first half of the league season over, the Warriors and Tigers (12-7-1) are knotted atop the PAC 7 standings, each at 5-1.
Arroyo Grande is nipping at their heels in second place at 4-1-1.
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Senior forward Ivy Diego, who has verbally committed to a full-ride scholarship to play soccer at Cal State Fullerton, scored both goals for the Warriors.
In stoppage time in the second half, Sydney Knauer scored for the Tigers after a free kick was headed in the box and the ball slipped out of the hands of Righetti goalkeeper Hailey Cochran.
Knauer cleaned up with her left-footed shot into the net to make it 2-1, and the Tigers sprinted back to their half of the field to try to hasten the action and even the score.
Knauer had another opportunity a couple of minutes before her goal after beating a Warriors defender with some clever zig-zag dribbling to break free. She got a clean look with a right-footed shot but the ball sailed over the goal.
“We almost had it,” Knauer said. “It was a high-pressure game. We battled and I thought we had it but we just didn’t finish. We can beat this team when we play them again. I really think that we can.”
San Luis Obispo was able to keep possession for stretches in the first half. But Righetti took advantage of some quick bursts at the goal to seize the early lead.
In the 26th minute, Warriors sophomore Michaela Olney found Diego on a right cross that eluded the reach of Tigers goalkeeper Lily McCann.
Diego took the pass and found a wide-open net, slamming it home on her first touch.
Then in the 33rd minute, Diego took another pass from Olney, lobbed over San Luis Obispo’s last line of defense, and sprinted ahead. Diego corralled the bounding ball, then turned and cashed in on a right-footed shot that scooted low and hard past a diving McCann.
“They’re a good opponent,” San Luis Obispo coach Kaleena Andruss said. “I liked our resiliency. It’s hard to come back down 2-0 in the first half, but we kept our heads up. It’s a long season and this is just one game. We just need to finish strong and not let up.”
The Tigers may have had a good chance to close the 2-0 deficit sooner. In the 60th minute, a San Luis Obispo player took a blow to the head on a foul by a Righetti player that was clearly a few feet inside the penalty box.
But the referee, who was positioned across the field, believed the violation took place outside of the box, costing the Tigers a penalty shot. San Luis Obispo had a free kick from just outside the box but couldn’t convert.
Diego’s two goals gave her 11 for the season, tied for the team lead with Olney.
“It feels good to win this game,” Diego said. “We were all really excited. We knew they’d be tough but I think we came very well prepared.”
San Luis Obispo next plays Pioneer Valley at home Wednesday and closes out their season against Righetti, in what could be a game that decides the league championship, Feb. 8 in Santa Maria.