It was wet and ugly, but the Davis High girls soccer team quietly demolished Del Campo, 3-0, on Tuesday night at Yudin Field.
Junior Sophia Hernandez, fresh off winning the Golden Boot award at last weekend’s St. Mary’s Tournament, scored two goals to propel the Blue Devils (6-1) past the Cougars.
Hernandez started fast, scoring the first goal almost right off the opening kick. The right-sided attacker took advantage of a poorly headed Del Campo clearance to lob a one-touch volley from 25 yards over the helpless Del Campo keeper.
The DHS striker then made it 2-0 just 15 minutes later after a giveaway in the midfield let her break away from the Cougars defense and coolly side-footed the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
From that point, the Devils settled into a stifling press, forcing the Del Campo backline close to its goal. The pressure made the visitors sloppy, especially on clears, and the influential Gaby Herrera won the majority of the balls in the midfield for Davis.
After starting the game at forward, Herrera dropped deep in the midfield early in the game and began to spray balls around the field with perfect pace, creating a multitude of chances.
“Gaby just has a great understanding of the game,” said Blue Devils coach Sara Stone. “On the front line, she is able to hold the ball up well. In the midfield, she has great vision. She’s just a standout player who has a great understanding of the game.”
Herrera nearly made it 3-0 in the 28th minute when Hernandez lofted in a free kick toward the back post that sailed over the goalkeeper, leaving an unmarked Herrera in the 6-yard box with just an open net to finish.
Despite having a silky smooth first touch for the majority of the game, Herrera’s powerful header crashed off the crossbar and was cleared harmlessly out of the box.
DHS finished the first half up 2-0, but it could have been five or six if it wasn’t for a lack finishing at the net.
“Part of (our finishing problem) was just the conditions of the field, balls slipping away a little bit, not being able to get that final touch on it,” Stone said. “I think one of the hardest things in soccer is to get that final pass and get an opportunity out of it. The more we can get those players working together, the better the timing will be on that front line.”
If the first half belonged to Herrera, then the second half was possessed solely by freshman winger Julia Curtis.
The speedy attacker showed off her Messi-like ability to keep the ball glued to her feet while turning defenders inside-out, making many dangerous runs toward the goal, and rifling off four shots on goal in the first eight minutes of the second half to no avail.
The Devils came out of the break looking possessed, suffocating their opponent in the final third of the field.
“The biggest thing that we talked about at halftime was when we play with the three strikers up front and we decide to high-pressure, once we high-pressure on the front line, our midfield needs to step up,” Stone said.
“We were able to squeeze (Del Campo) in a little more and we were able to win balls in the midfield that we weren’t winning in the first half.”
With all of Davis’ quality chances in front of the goal, it wasn’t rewarded until the 68th minute. That’s when Curtis collected a rebound at the top of the box and placed the ball so perfectly into the side netting of the goal that the opposing keeper could only stand there and watch it go in.
The freshman then turned around and walked straight to the other side of the field like nothing had happened in a low-key celebration that would have made Barry Sanders proud.
With the hosts up 3-0, the teams played out the final 12 minutes just waiting for the final whistle.
“I think we’re improving and coming along,” Stone said. “I love having a shutout. It means defensively we’re doing our job.”
Notes: Davis outshot Del Campo 26-3 with Curtis registering 11 of those shots. … Center backs Brooke Palmer and Renee Schuman, and later Herrera, kept a tight ship the entire match, forcing DHS keeper Marianna O’Brien to make only one difficult save. … The Blue Devils face Woodcreek next on Thursday (7 p.m.) in Roseville.
— Reach Evan Ream at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam