Correction: Valley Center finished second in Class 5A in 2013. A previous version of this story had the incorrect placing.
Conceding possession to a team as skilled in the midfield as Maize South creates two criteria that must be fulfilled for the strategy to succeed. It forces the defense to play a flawless 80 minutes and depends on one set piece or counter to materialize.
The Andover Central girls soccer team met both of the criteria on Tuesday evening at Maize South, registering its fourth straight shutout and capitalizing on a counter to defeat the Mavericks 1-0.
“We just needed that one moment,” Andover Central senior Maddi Zimmer said. “They possessed better than we did, but in the end it’s whoever gets the goal.”
Entering the contest, the victor had a chance of earning a share of the AV-CTL Div. II title. But that was spoiled by Eisenhower, which effectively eliminated every team but Goddard from the title chase with its 5-0 win over Andover.
That didn’t diminish what the Jaguars (8-7) accomplished Tuesday. In the last four games, Central has defeated Eisenhower, Valley Center (second in Class 5A last season), and Maize South (currently ranked fifth in 5A), all by the same 1-0 score.
The difference has been a shift in philosophy along the back line. Coach Stephanie Garcia scrapped the traditional flat-back defense with four defenders in favor of entrusting junior Masen Stamp as the sweeper.
“It’s working because our midfield is dropping back more,” Stamp said. “They’re marking up now and that’s helping a lot. My job as a sweeper is to just clean up whatever gets past them.”
Stamp, along with Gaby Gentzler, were outstanding in containing a Maize South attack that had produced 3.4 goals per game this season. The game was played mostly in Central’s end and Maize South peppered keeper Caitlin Orgera with 13 shots but less than half were on target and few were true threats.
“Possession-wise, I can give my team an ‘A+’, but the thing we were lacking was imagination,” Maize South coach Marlon Rios said. “We needed to do a better job on that last touch, the last play of the possession.”
Maize South dominated the opening 10 minutes, but the Jaguars’ one moment of brilliance came on the perfect counter. It was from Zimmer’s creation in the midfield when she rolled a perfect through ball past Maize South’s defense to put the speedy freshman Paris Vincze 1-on-1 with the keeper, that led to the goal.
The original shot, by Vincze, was blocked by Maize South’s Caroline Howard, but the ball trickled past her toward the goal where Central senior Veronica Hernandez was there on the back-post to hammer in her first goal of the season.
It was equally stunning and graceful, and it was enough to give the Jaguars another 1-0 result.
“We just needed that one set-up and we got it,” Garcia said. “It was perfect.”