A matchup that’s always competitive had a different twist Thursday when the Oak Ridge and Ponderosa girls’ soccer teams met for the first time this season.
The Bruins came in undefeated with an 8-0-1 record and ranked No. 1 in the state and nation by MaxPreps. The Trojans, at 6-1-1, is also ranked by MaxPreps, 38th nationally. But that may change after Oak Ridge beat Ponderosa, 1-0.
“Each game we’ve been getting a little bit better. Our organization and defending has been good, so it’s given us a solid foundation to work on. We’ve had two or three starters injured, so that shows how good our squad is. I’m really pleased with how everyone’s contributing, and it’s a good win against a strong team,” Oak Ridge coach Joe Champion said.
Ponderosa coach Greg Spangler added, “The pressure’s been building on these girls for a while, with this whole ranking thing, so it’s difficult to play. We’ve been plagued with injury and illness, and it’s been building. So this actually relieves some pressure so they can just go and play and not worry about anything else.”
In the first half, both teams had opportunities to get on the board. In the eighth minute, Selena Brewer got separation, but lost control of the ball and Oak Ridge goalie Nina Grimes smothered it. The Trojans had an opportunity midway in but the Bruins snuffed it out.
In the 35th minutes, Carisa Rivers had the ball deep in Ponderosa territory but wasn’t able to get a shot off. With the half about to close, Oak Ridge’s Marissa Ribiero took a shot that bounced over a sliding Alannah John and rolled to the back of the net as the Trojans took a 1-0 lead in stoppage time that carried into the half.
Working with the lead, Oak Ridge looked to add. Ribiero took another shot in the 45th minute was just wide right of the net. Minutes later, Ponderosa’s 2-on-1 opportunity was whistled offside to end the threat.
Trying to extend, Julia Crawford missed high. Both teams had chances but neither could get shots on goal and as time ticked down, Ponderosa took desperation attempts. In stoppage time, the Bruins had a free kick turned header that Grimes stopped to ice the victory.
Oak Ridge has won five straight matches heading into its tussle with Rocklin on Tuesday, April 2.
“Our goal is still to make playoffs and that will remain our goal. But from my point of view, as well as the wins, it’s about trying to play the game the right way, and trying to show that high school soccer can be as organized and structured as club soccer,” Champion said.
Ponderosa now looks to bounce back from its first loss of the year as it entertains Folsom on Tuesday, April 9.
“We’re going to regroup over (spring) break and just come back stronger,” Spangler said.