Dons Dominate in First Round of CIF Playoffs
Thursday afternoon, the Verdugo Hills Dons played their first match in the 2022 CIF Playoff season against the Wolfpack of Maywood CES (MACES).
As Maywood was coming into this game winning 4-1 beating Valley Academy of Arts & Sciences. The Dons, however, were still extremely confident. Nothing could have made them quiver in their gameplay and game plan. Though the Dons were coming into this match struggling in many areas on the pitch, it was visible that the Verdugo Hills coaches had made changes and worked on these struggles in order to stay strong and finish this season with a championship.
The game started with Verdugo Hills highly on the offensive and focused on pressuring the Wolfpack. The Dons had possession for the majority of the first half, and they were playing focused offensively, rarely having the ball go all the way back to their half of the field. With this, they were able to generate many opportunities to score and they made most of those opportunities count. The Dons were able to convert their first goal in the 21st minute. The play started from a centered ball to Angie Garcia Cortave who attempted a shot that ricocheted off the post and the MACES goalkeeper into the air. Aolani Dominguez tracked the play and jumped into the air and connected with a header into the back of the net to give Verdugo Hills the lead, 1-0. The Dons were clearly filled with energy after this first goal, and the bench continued to stay ready and cheer on their teammates from the sidelines. This was the only goal of the first half, as Verdugo Hills had another goal called back due to an offsides. For the remainder of the half the Dons focused on their plan and pressure the Wolfpack to stay on defense, to take their lead into halftime.
The second half was a clear example that the Dons are a second half dominant team. Verdugo Hills came back from the halftime break at full speed and showed that they are here in the playoffs to win it all. The Dons wasted no time scoring their first goal in the second half. Cortave managed to slip through two defenders alone on the goalie, and she was able to get the ball past the goalie to extend the Dons lead in the 42nd minute. Shortly after, in the 44th minute, Cortave scored again, and it was almost the same play as her first goal. She had a breakaway and tapped the ball to the left side of the net from the right, catching the goalie off balance and not able to reach the ball. Cortave did not stop there, as she completed the natural hat-trick in the 48th minute. She was sent in from the right side and chipped the ball in to extend the Dons lead to 4-0. The Wolfpack was visibly upset as they began to play more physically aggressive in an attempt to stop the Dons. Unfortunately for Verdugo Hills they again felt they were on the wrong side of officiating, despite their dominance on the pitch.. This was more evident in instances where Dons girls were nearly injured, causing uproar from coaches and fans in the stands as the officials did not call fouls in those moments. There was an especially physical collision inside the Wolves penalty area that left a Dons player hurt, but not injured. The officials called a foul on Verdugo Hills on the play, leading to more cries of outrage from the crowd.
Maywood managed to spend more time on offense and pressured Verdugo Hills to now switch to a defensive position. As the Wolfpack was now pushing on the pedal offensively, the Dons still managed to put a stop to their plays and not allow any goals. Their offensive attack did not stop either, and in the 66th minute Isabella Owen was able to squeeze by defenders and score a goal of her own for the team to make the score 5-0 for the Dons.
After that score, Verdugo Hills removed their starting lineup off the field in order to let them rest, and Maywood took this opportunity to focus on the offensive. In the 72nd minute the Wolves had a play coming from the left side and centered the ball to their attackers who were able to score a goal. Verdugo Hills argued that the ball had gone completely out of play on the left side and the goal should not stand. The referees were having none of it, calling it a goal and demanding the ball be placed at the midfield dot for a kickoff. Amid the confusion, the Wolfpack did not hesitate to question the call at all, and grabbed the ball from the goal and took the ball to the half. This goal made the score 5-1, and was ultimately the final score of this match. As the final minutes ticked down and the final whistle was blown, the Dons and fans in the stands let out a cheerful shout as they won this match and are moving onto the quarterfinals. Verdugo Hills hosts Kennedy on Saturday at 3:00 pm, in a rematch of a hard-fought 1-0 Dons win during the Los Angeles Valley College Tournament in January.