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Prep girls soccer: One gets the job done for the Cowboys

Canyon gets the round one game-winning goal late off the foot of the red hot Mari Kneisel

Posted: February 15, 2013 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 15, 2013 1:55 a.m.
 

As Canyon Cowboys girls soccer head coach Derek Rusk said after his team’s CIF-Southern Section Division II playoff game on Thursday afternoon, all it takes is one.

Against the Bay League No. 2 Peninsula Panthers of Palos Verdes, that one came with under two minutes remaining. That’s when Canyon’s Mari Kneisel put the Cowboys first shot on target of the game into the back of the net in an eventual 1-0 victory at Peninsula High School.

“She’s so clutch. Two minutes left in the game, she found her way from midfield, drove past two girls — just outran them — and beat the keeper,” Rusk said. “Unbelievable.”

The goal is Kneisel’s fifth in seven games.

The game started out on the wrong foot for Canyon (9-8-5 overall), literally, as the Cowboys struggled in the first half with the natural-grass field of Peninsula (12-6-6).

“We hadn’t played on grass for a while, so our touch was not what we would typically expect from our players,” Rusk said. “In the first half we gave up the ball a bit and the other team controlled the flow of the game.”

The defensive backline, anchored by Celia Franco and Kristina Watanabe, played well, and goalkeeper Meghan Kennedy’s 10 saves helped keep Canyon in it when the shots weren’t coming.

Canyon found its footing in the second half, rebounding from the sluggish start to even out the possession.

“(Peninsula) was quick to the ball. They weren’t a very physical team, but they were a very talented and skilled team, and we matched skill for skill in the second half. Sometimes your first touch, when it’s not what you expect it gets in your head,” Rusk said. “But it just takes a little more focus on the players part and they were able to do that.”

Canyon will host Wilson of Long Beach at 5 p.m.

Wilson, the No. 3 seed in the bracket, won the Moore League.

After a strong start to the Foothill League season, the Cowboys struggled to close things out, going 0-2-2 in their last four games.

Rusk hopes Thursday’s result will be the impetus to a strong postseason run.

“We didn’t finish the season how we would have liked to,” he said. “It doesn’t change the level of play we’re capable of. And a win like this gives us the confidence to be ready to go.”

They might get an added boost from the return of Cleveland State University-commit Kaila Sargema, who has missed the entire season due to an ACL tear.

“As long as she gets a doctor’s release she’s ready to step back onto the field. I don’t know how many minutes she’s going to get when she first comes back,” Rusk said. “I wouldn’t risk putting her in for an extended time, but she’s the kind of player, if she’s in there for a few minutes she can make a lot of things happen.”

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