Playing without starting defenders Brooke Palmer, Makenna Rubinstein and Renee Schuman, the Davis High girls soccer team was forced to adapt and slot players into positions they were unfamiliar with Monday night at Yudin Field.
To make matters worse, the Blue Devils were facing rival Franklin, the defending Sac-Joaquin Section champions.
However, if it weren’t for a late Wildcats goal, DHS would have avenged its loss in last year’s section final. Instead the teams settled for a 2-2 draw in their Delta Valley Conference opener.
“The girls should be pleased,” Devil coach Sara Stone said of the result. “We had our chances. I felt like we had more dangerous opportunities. We’ll play (Franklin) again, so it’s kind of nice to see them early.”
Missing several of her players thanks to spring break trips, Stone elected to insert sophomore Gaby Herrera and freshman Josie Baca into the starting backline, giving Davis (8-1-2, 0-0-1 DVC) four underclassmen in its starting lineup.
Despite the relative lack of experience, the locals started strong, controlling the majority of possession deep in Franklin’s half.
It was against the run of play when the Wildcats opened the scoring in the 34th minute.
A Herrera foul near midfield seemed harmless initially, but the ensuing free kick evaded all the Blue Devil defenders in the box and was toe-poked into the back of the net by a Franklin player. The ball squirted right under the midsection of DHS keeper Christina Roeckl-Navazio, who was stretched horizontally in an attempt to save the shot.
The tide of the game changed right after the break as Herrera was moved further up the field in order to create chances for the Devils to get back in the game.
Two minutes after halftime, Herrera neatly collected a long ball near the top of the Franklin box and slotted a perfectly weighted through pass to Julia Curtis.
The freshman took one touch and then lobbed the ball over the onrushing Wildcat keeper with her left foot, tying the game.
Twelve minutes later, Curtis collected the ball on the right side of the attacking third of the field. Curtis’ defender was draped over her like she was wearing a coat, but the freshman forward managed to shrug the physical challenge off and play a driven cross to the back post. From there, Davis’ Sophia Hernandez one-touched the ball into the net past the helpless Franklin net-minder.
Unfortunately for the locals, they weren’t able to close out the game as a defensive mistake let the Wildcats equalize in the 66th minute when the Blue Devil back four lost its shape and was stressed due to fatigue.
“I thought we kind of had their number in the first half, but late in the second half, due to the numbers that we had and some of the injuries, we were getting a little gassed,” Stone said. “(We need to) just play smarter in certain situations. I felt like we were overcommitting in the midfield when we got tired.”
Notes: Franklin hit the crossbar three times and outshot DHS 13-12. … Sophomore Marin Garcia made her varsity debut Monday. She has been called up from the Devil JV squad for the remainder of the season.
— Reach Evan Ream at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam