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Claremont girls soccer grinds out a key victory

Two artfully crafted free kicks from Karen Parga were enough to give Claremont the win against undefeated Alta Loma. The Braves proved tough to break down and dangerous during their rare forays into Wolfpack territory. Claremont enjoyed approximately two-thirds of the possession, broke the tie 20 minutes into the 2nd half, and held on for a 2-1 win.

The Wolfpack were fresh off a solid 3-0 victory against Diamond Bar in last weekend’s San Dimas Tournament finale. The match was a benchmark for Claremont, as Diamond Bar had won the previous meeting earlier this season between the teams. Alta Loma came into the match having won all 5 of their games this season by a combined score of 17-2.

Claremont established its intent to keep Alta Loma on the back foot early in the game. Just 15 minutes into the match, winger Merin Arft slammed the ball into the net, only for it to be ruled offside. Hannah Chua put Arft through on goal 5 minutes later, but Braves keeper Charlee Pruitt came off her line quickly to smother the shot. The midfield maestro Chua then had an effort herself, jinking past a defender and firing on goal. Pruitt palmed the shot away.

Claremont’s most enterprising play was down the left channel. Left back Marissa Telarroja, and left-winger Sydney Navarro continued to create chances for their teammates. Chua and Sara Estupinian found seams down the middle of the field as the first half wore on, typically having no trouble finding a streaking Karsyn Jordan up front. Alta Loma was unable to cross the halfway line for a good 10 minutes. Every move the Braves put together was snuffed out by central defensive duo Ari Holmes and Haley Arft.

The breakthrough came with 10 minutes remaining in the period. Central midfielder Megan Renken took a pass with her back to the goal and was hacked down just outside the box. Right back Karen Parga stepped forward to take the free kick. She sent her right-footed shot over the wall, curling into the keeper’s top right-hand corner of the net. The shot would have beaten any international goalkeeper. Claremont led 1-0.

Elation was short-lived. The old sports adage that says you are most vulnerable right after you score proved true. Just a few minutes after the goal, a long ball by Alta Loma caught Claremont’s defense switched off. Braves striker Leah Pruitt raced in between Holmes and Haley Arft, and neatly slipped the ball past the onrushing Amanda Garvin. Just like that, the teams were deadlocked again.

“It’s unbelievable, they had one chance, and scored it,” Coach Tim Tracey said.

The second half proved to be more of the same from Claremont. The Wolfpack picked up the tempo in possession. Chua sent Merin Arft sprinting to the byline. Arft dug out a cross on the ground for Navarro, who was unable to keep her first-time shot on target. A couple of minutes later, Holmes lofted a free kick from the halfway line all the way into the box. Jordan jostled for position and flicked her header on frame. The Braves keeper managed to tip the header onto the crossbar, and the resulting goalmouth scramble saw Alta Loma clear their lines.

The pressure paid off for the Wolfpack 20 minutes from time. Jordan collected a pass on the edge of the area, and was fouled in an almost identical position to where Claremont scored the first goal. Once again, Tracey sent Parga to take the free kick. Parga’s effort bent around the wall, kissed the crossbar and bulged the net for a 2-1 Wolfpack lead.

Claremont threatened to extend the lead when Renken fired just wide of the goal. With the game nearing its end, Merin Arft was again put through on goal. Once more Pruitt came off her line quickly to block the shot. Alta Loma, for all its reputation, was unable to create anything offensively to erase the one-goal deficit. The final whistle blew to signal Claremont’s sixth win of the season.

Coach Tracey was impressed with the win.

“We could have had a lot more goals, but that’s the way it goes. We are little lean right now, but we should get 3 key players back soon,” he said.

Strikers Caylin Jackson, Ryley Settles, and midfielder Madison Stark are all out with various afflictions.

Results from Claremont’s game against Bonita will be in Wednesday’s COURIER. This Saturday, December 15, at 8 a.m. the Pack will kickoff another tournament against St. Paul. The Swordsmen have had a tough go at it this season, only winning one match and losing 3.

“We need to improve our depth of play. I want to see the quality stay consistent, even when I make a substitution,” Coach Tracey said.

It looks as if the Wolfpack are in excellent shape this season as they defend their championship.

—Chris Oakley

sports@claremont-courier.com

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