For the Islanders girls soccer team, Tuesday and Thursday night games against the Dons of Cathedral Catholic and Our Lady of Peace (OLP) were significant in their own way.
In hosting the Dons, the Islanders faced the No. 1 ranked team in California and the No. 6 ranked team in the United States. In games and matches with seedings and such importance, confidence is vital, something head coach Mike Costaglio preached to his players.
“Going into these games against Cathedral, who are an open division side, we have to play with confidence. We can’t make the game or our opponent bigger than them,” Costaglio said.
Both teams were exceptionally even for the first 15 minutes of Tuesday’s game.
Defensively, the Islanders continued to prove to be one of the best defensive teams in San Diego County as Ava Worthy, Lana Allari-Smith, Zoe Searles and Giana Quijano held the Don’s at bay with several good clearances and interceptions in the first minutes.
However, in the 16th minute, the Dons snuck in the first goal to give themselves a 1-0 lead. The Islanders would have a few chances to equalize in the first half, but their first offensive problems stemmed from the offense appearing to be trying to do too much.
On several occasions, Katelyn McGrath, Riley McGrath, Xiomara McKenna or Samantha Christie would find themselves in a promising position on offense. It just felt like the Islanders were just a little out of sync and as a result, they found themselves trailing 1-0 at halftime.
But when the Islanders returned to the field for the second half, you could quickly tell that whatever difficulties the first half had, they weren’t going to carry over into the second half.
In the opening minutes, the Islanders controlled the pace of the game better, their passes and possessions were sharper. Then in the 45th minute, the Islanders’ polished offense struck.
Thanks to a long outing pass from Worthy to Riley McGrath, the Islanders would have a two-on-three. Riley McGrath then fed the ball to Katelyn McGrath, who laced it into the back of the net and tied the game at 1-1.
The Islanders’ goal tied the game and served as the turning point. With the game tied again, the teams returned to a stalemate and even played the game. However, in the 70th minute after a corner kick cleared, the Islanders went to counterattack as Emily Kutie found Ella Oden in space on the right wing.
Oden would take the pass to the corner before landing a low cross that found Christie’s right foot. The elder would go on to tear up the back of the net and give the Islanders a 2-1 lead with just 10 minutes left.
“You don’t see a Sam player [Christie’s] calibrate very often. She has magical technical skills and a feel with the ball at her feet and constantly makes people miss. She can play all three roles of striker, defender and central midfielder at an elite level, and on top of that she is extremely coachable,” Costaglio said.
But these Lady Islanders weren’t done yet. Just 45 seconds later, Oden found herself in possession of the ball again on the right wing and, as she had done last time, weaved down the right touchline before crossing the ball into the box.
The cross would again fall on an Islander in Katelyn McGrath, who would hammer it to give her a second goal on the night and, more importantly, give Coronado the 3-1 lead and send the Island faithful into a frenzy.
The Islanders would ask their back line to hold the lead for the final eight minutes and stoppage time, a task they would be more than ready for. While conceding a late goal, the Islanders backline would hold the game and secure the 3-2 victory against the No. 1 ranked team from California.
The team didn’t have much time to celebrate, as they moved on to their next game on Thursday, January 27. The Islanders’ next game was just as big and meaningful, just slightly different as the Islanders women’s soccer team celebrated senior night. . Before the game, the Islanders honored the seniors:
Rose Cuthbert, Tenli Nicholson, Allari-Smith, Oden, Christie, Cadence Palmer, Delaney Nickerson and Riley McGrath for their achievements and contributions to the Islanders soccer program.
For much of Thursday night’s game, the Islanders would be firmly in control as they dominate time of possession and total shot attempts.
Offensively, Christie, Riley McGrath and Katelyn McGrath would spice up PLO’s goal with plenty of attempts on goal, with several missing wide and high touch. Defensively, the girls were also successful with OLP, Kutie, Allari Smith and Christie both registering interceptions in the first half alone. However, the Islanders would find themselves in a 0-0 tie at halftime despite the lopsided box score.
In the second half, the Islanders would have had a pair of early shot opportunities on crosses from Worthy and Oden in the 44th and 47th minutes, but the next shots would be wide both times. As Coronado seemed to struggle to find the back of the net, PLO would strike for a goal in the 55th to make it a 1-0 game. But that lead would last around 43 seconds, as in the ensuing island possession, Riley McGrath would find Christie, who would score the equalizer.
Just 15 minutes later, it appeared Christie would have another goal to give Coronado a 2-1 lead, but the AR linesman called an extremely late and questionable offside, keeping the game at 1- 1 in what would end up being the final. Goal.
With their record now at 9-2-4, the Islanders have just three games left in their regular season schedule. Over the next 10 days, the islanders will be looking to fix the little things as Costaglio told me: “We have a few bad habits that we still need to get rid of, so these next 10 days are all about cleaning things up and refining this what were doing.”
The Girls Soccer team returned to action this week with a road game against Mission Bay on Tuesday February 2, score not available at press time.