Northgate snatches a late winner in combative match

Alhambra senior goalkeeper Nicki Rucki takes a free kick in Northgate territory. The captain scored off a rebounded free kick from 30 yards out in the 2-1 loss on Dec. 7, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra senior goalkeeper Nicki Rucki takes a free kick in Northgate territory. The captain scored off a rebounded free kick from 30 yards out in the 2-1 loss on Dec. 7, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)

By GERARDO RECINOS
Martinez Tribune

An injury-time winner snatched a share of the result for the Lady Bulldog soccer team on Wednesday night in Walnut Creek. The result was a bit unfair for the combative contest.

Northgate certainly had their chances, and took them, but Alhambra created enough to at least share the spoils in the 2-1 loss on Dec. 7.

The two teams in action both played in the North Coast Section playoffs last year, and have aspirations to do so again, so neither team was expected to grab a hold of the game and out perform the other.

Alhambra looked more likely to grab the opener, but no one could’ve predicted how they got it.

Jaycee Armosino won a free kick in the that goalkeeper Nicki Rucki took. Coach Ed Marinelli has not shied away from putting his goalkeeper on free kicks and penalties, and he was rewarded for that trust. Rucki’s initial effort clanged off the Northgate wall, but her second effort was true in the 13th minute of play.

Only the senior will know whether she was trying to just clear the ball in an attempt to get back in position, or if she struck it with intent on goal. But everyone in attendance saw what followed.

Except the opposing keeper, who was rooted to the spot as she watched the curling effort. That strike was canceled out almost immediately.

The Broncos scored after a referee’s decision to award a goal kick was overturned by the linesman. The taker scored an Olympic goal directly from the corner. In the space of three minutes both teams scored a pair of goals that may not be matched all season.

Since the Rucki goal, the Bulldogs had been susceptible. After the Northgate opener they continued to look shaky.

Northgate wasn’t allowing the Bulldogs much time on the ball. They forced errant passes, and eventually cornered the Bulldogs into trying to escape by playing to their isolated striker. Unlike prior games, the Bulldogs didn’t look as strong on the wings in the loss.

Pressed into defending, the Bulldogs were allowing the Broncos to create more chances. Only five minutes into the start of the second half, Rucki was called upon to make a save from a smart move by Northgate.

The shot didn’t trouble the Alhambra keeper, but was a sign of what was coming.

Twice in the next 10 minutes Northgate were nearly let in by a poor clearance, but both times senior captain Sarah Emigh made a last-ditch tackle to clear her lines.

A save from Rucki in the 56th minute and a shot into the side netting by Northgate in the 65th nearly saw the Broncos take a lead, both came from an astute counter attack.

Much like the one that produced the winner.

A long ball from the midfield found a runner in the box, who took the deflected pass and slotted coolly past Rucki to grab a late winner. It was cruel, but the Bulldogs failed to create many chances prior to the goal.

Rucki was able to put a shot on frame from a free kick in the dying seconds of the game, but senior keeper Mikayla Ducey made a brave kick save from her opposite number to preserve the three points for her side.

About Gerardo Recinos

Gerardo Recinos is a journalist currently living in Concord, Calif. He is a recent graduate of San Francisco State University, with a degree in Journalism (History minor). Gerardo covers sports throughout Martinez and Pleasant Hill. It's his lifelong mission to get people in the U.S. to stop calling football "soccer," and to call American football "handegg."

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