Going down 2-0 within the first 15 minutes of the match, it looked all but over for the Maranatha High School girl’s soccer team in their CIF State Semifinal match against Malibu High School.
However, the Minutemen showed impeccable resilience and scored three unanswered goals to catapult their way into the CIF State Final set Saturday morning, securing a stunning comeback and winning their semifinal match 3-2.
Goals from sophomore Andrea Gamez, junior Thamara Peterson, and senior captain Morgan Howe inspired the Maranatha come back.
“We haven’t seen such a direct team, and we weren’t used to it and we had to see it first,” Maranatha head coach Robert Gurule about Malibu’s play style. “Unfortunately, you go down 2-0 quick because we weren’t used to that kind of play.”
Malibu looked the sharper of the two teams in the first half. Although Maranatha had two early opportunities from distance, Malibu’s quickness and agility caught the Minutemen off the counter and were able to chip one in in the sixth minute.
Their second one came shortly after and it seemed like they weren’t going to slow down at any point in the half.
Malibu nearly scored a third off a ricochet after Maranatha goalkeeper Aislinn O’Bryne saved the initial shot. Maranatha fullback Alexis Phillips was able to clear the rebound shot out off the goal line to keep the Minutemen in the game.
Phillips and the rest of Maranatha were able to regroup and focus on their opposition, allowing several chances to go by, but kept Malibu out of the goal and went into halftime trailing 2-0.
“It’s basically calming down, trusting your game, and trusting that you’re fit enough to run with these guys,” Gurule said at halftime. “If I’m calm, they can be calm.”
Gamez pulled one back for the Minutemen in the 53rd minute after capitalizing on the counter to and notching one into the top right corner of the goal. It would take another 13 minutes for Maranatha to tie it up, and Howe did so with a sublime strike from 35 yards out to the opposite corner of the net that put more pressure onto Malibu.
“I just put my head down and I just shot it and I just wished for the best,” the Maranatha team-captain said. “I didn’t think it was going to go in. I thought it was going to go outside corner, but it just flew in there and I was so relieved.”
Switching Peterson from center-back to striker was the penultimate game-changer for Gurule and his girls as the junior found a pass and broke through the defense. Peterson coolly chipped it over the goalkeeper to notch the game-winning goal.
“You got to risk it, you got to keep going for it.” Peterson said on her game-winning goal. “You do it for the team, and that’s the inspiration.”
Maranatha will face Strathmore in the CIF State Final on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Strathmore High School.