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Lady Wolfpack unable to convert scoring chances

On Wednesday night, Claremont girls soccer played 100 scoreless minutes against the Ayala Bulldogs. “There you have it, you have to finish your chances,” said coach Tim Tracy. After dominating possession in regulation and having a number of clear-cut opportunities, the Wolfpack played out 2 goalless extra periods and the match finished 0-0.

Claremont came out in a midfield-heavy formation, looking to continue their quick passing game. Indeed, the strategy looked to have paid dividends early on. Right winger Megan Renken won a corner after only 3 minutes, and Madison Stark headed the out swinging cross against the crossbar.

At 21 minutes, Claremont broke through on goal again. Hannah Chua flicked on a long ball from center half Ari Holmes, releasing left midfielder Merin Arft. The ball was just too far, and Ayala goalkeeper Katlyn Abeyta came out to smother. Abeyta would prove to be a thorn in the side of Wolfpack strikers as the game wore on.

The Wolfpack were winning most 50/50 balls as well as almost every header, but were unable to create any more clear scoring chances in the half. In fact, after Claremont’s bright start to the game, Ayala managed to claw back some of the possession time 10 minutes from halftime. Bulldog central players Morgan Brown and Maya Jones held Claremont attackers at bay and launched a couple of counter attacks of their own.

Just 2 minutes after the restart, Claremont won another corner. Haley Arft struck her cross low and into the danger area for Stark, who skewed her shot just wide of the post. Renken continued to make headway down the right flank, and found forward Ryley Settles with a through pass. Again the chance evaded the Wolfpack, as Settles crossed just over the head of onrushing teammates.

Again, Ayala began to turn the tide. Goalkeeper Amanda Garvin was called into action when Ayala’s Krista Krugler crossed into the 6-yard box, punching the ball away from danger. Tracey acknowledged the Bulldogs’ fighting spirit, “Ayala’s a good side and they gained momentum when we began to lose focus during the game.”

On 54 minutes, Claremont broke down the right when Claire Damon sent Renken for a cross into the box. Settles gathered and laid the ball off to Chua, who shot low and into the goalkeeper Abeyta’s arms. Abeyta finally made a mistake 8 minutes later when she dropped another searching ball from Holmes right into the path of Merin Arft, but Ayala’s Jones was there to mop up. The game whistle blew, and now they would have 2 extra time periods.

Extra time proved to be the same war of attrition seen during regulation. In the 92nd minute of play, Chua created another good chance for Arft who rounded the keeper, but ran out of space for a shot. With 3 minutes left in extra time, Claremont gave up a free kick just outside the area. Ayala’s Samantha Orodpour lined up and shot the ball over the crossbar, calming Wolfpack nerves.

The referee then blew for the end of the match, amid hopeful shouts from the fans for a penalty shootout. Alas, the game would end all square. Tracey said, “I am happy that we maintained focus. With the draw and Chino Hills’ loss to South Hills, we are now tied for first place in Sierra.”

Claremont will travel to South Hills, who just beat the best team in the division. Next, the Wolfpack have another 2 away games following that one. Check online and in our next edition for more scores.

—Chris Oakley

sports@claremont-courier.com

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