By GERARDO RECINOS
Both teams looked like they fielded two different sets of 11 in the first and second halves of the Bulldogs 1-0 loss to Miramonte on Friday night.
Each team had their more productive half in the thrilling Feb. 3 contest, but it was the Matadors who took their chances with an early goal at the start of the second half.
But they did what Alhambra couldn’t do.
Make no mistake the Matadors put some shots on frame in the early stages of the match, but nothing that truly troubled Alhambra goalkeeper Nicki Rucki.
The Alhambra shot-stopper was equal to the three attempts on frame she was forced to deal with in the first half.
However after a rocky opening 20 minutes for both sides, as play started to settle in, the Bulldogs looked more in control.
With some adjustments being made in the lineup, the Bulldogs seemed more inclined to play down the middle of the pitch, rather than trying to stretch Miramonte out wide.
Even so, they pressed high up the field with energy and forced the Matadors to lose possession on multiple occasions. Substitute Sophia Olson in particular put in a shift chasing around any ball from the back, forcing the Miramonte backline to be on alert when they picked up their heads to play a pass.
Alhambra could not take advantage of the surplus in possession, however. Having Sarah Emigh play in defense stifled their creativity a bit, but there were a few instances where the Lady Dogs seemed just off kilter.
In the 28th minute Carly Agostino slipped in fellow junior Marissa D’Atri down the left touchline. The winger’s cross was only cleared as far as full back Chakeira Cox, but her teasing ball into the box was also cleared wide by Miramonte.
Not long after sophomore midfielder Sam Pearson took a shot from 25 yards out, but didn’t put enough pace in the ball to truly test the Miramonte keeper.
Not even a minute later the Bulldogs were hard done by a decision by an official, and were once again denied a chance for their goal.
Junior Julia Perez was hacked down in the 18-yard box, but the referee denied claims for a penalty and waved play on.
Agonizingly the Bulldogs couldn’t nick their goal, and in soccer when you can’t capitalize on your chances, you can bet your opponent will.
Even worse, they did it in way less time.
Having had to defend for the better part of 25 minutes in the first half, the Matadors didn’t spoil the fast-paced start after the break.
They fired a warning shot in the 42nd minute, when sophomore Siena Thomas’ shot went just wide.
A minute later they scored.
A smart ball down the right touchline found senior Samantha Devecchi. She fizzed in a cross with some pace on it that was finished off by a brilliant diving-headed effort by fellow captain and senior Mia Grillo.
The goal came with the Matadors threatening to score from the whistle, but Grillo’s run was well-timed, and the finish cultured. Nothing was going to stop it.
The same couldn’t be said of the chances the Bulldogs created in the second half. And that all came down to Miramonte keeper , who made 11 saves on the night.
Even when the official made a poor call and incorrectly ruled that Goodman had picked up a back pass. The resulting indirect free kick was cleared easily.
For the rest of the match it seemed as if the Lady Dogs were just missing the final piece of the puzzle.
They had some bright spots in link up play, but the end product was always missing.