The girls soccer team (2-1-2 overall) bumped San Mateo out of the Firebird Tournament finals by defeating Gunn (0-1-3 overall) 2-1.
“We were competing for the top of our bracket with San Mateo,” said junior center midfielder Jayla Stokesberry. “Since we won the game, we won our bracket so now we’re playing the team who won the other bracket next week for the final.”
Within the first 10 minutes of the game, senior forward Taylin Nguyen scored a goal off an assist by junior midfielder Colleen Morimoto.
“[Morimoto] was able to utilize her quickness and vision in the middle of the field to play early penetrating balls behind the Gunn defense for our forwards to run onto,” said head coach Michael Flynn. “This was something we had talked about in the pregame and [Morimoto] followed the script beautifully.”
Although both teams continued to play at a fast pace throughout the whole game, the Dons were not playing at their top speed. This caused a lot of turnovers, as Gunn received many opportunities to score.
“Most of the [breakaways] were due to our lack of speed,” said junior midfielder Hannah Flynn. “We were very slow on the field today, not playing at our normal, fast pace.”
In the second half, the Dons doubled their lead when Morimoto assisted senior forward Isabela Cortwright with a pass by the corner of the 18-yard box, where she took step to the left of the defender and put the ball in the back of the net.
Not long after, the Titans scored up the left wing and crossed the ball past the defense to make the Dons retrieve the ball from the back of their own net.
“Our defense shifted too far to the right and there was a miscommunication between the midfield line and the defensive line as to who should guard the player that ran in back post [and scored],” said junior defender Grace Simenc.
Although the Titans gave few opportunities, the Dons managed to make some crosses in shooting range in front of the goal.
“Most of the time the ball gets crossed hard while the forwards are crashing the goal, and the balls goes straight over to the other side,” said senior forward Grace Choy. “Gunn was aggressive and had players up against our players which made it a little difficult to receive balls from the air.”
Apart from being unable to receive the balls in the air, the Titans were able to intercept many of the balls sent to the forwards.
“We were reacting to the ball instead of anticipating,” Morimoto said. “If there was a pass we wouldn’t be there to press when we should’ve been.”
Even with a few mishaps, the Dons managed to hold out for a win.
“The game was intense, and it was very close,” Choy said. “We [were] anxious and panicked at times. This caused players to leave their mark and help other players and our main priority was to just get the ball away from the 18- yard box.”
The team is trying to improve their team chemistry after losing in the opening round in CCS last season.
“We definitely have trouble scoring, we had that problem last year too,” Stokesberry said. “We can get the ball up close to the goal really easily, but for some reason we have trouble getting it in the goal.”
Another aspect the team needs to improve their defending.
“We need to work on closing down gaps in our defense more quickly on through balls,” Simenc said.
The team has a new coach. Flynn was a former coach who spent two years with the Dons in 2006 and 2007. After a five-year stint as head coach for Crystal Springs Uplands, Flynn returned to Aragon as a physical education teacher.
“I am very excited about the upcoming soccer season,” he said.
Junior left midfielder Hannah Flynn, Michael Flynn’s daughter, is quite used to being coached by her dad.
“My dad does have a different style of coaching,” Hannah Flynn said. “Having my dad as a coach is fairly normal to me because he has supported me in the sports I have played, being my coach in soccer a few times prior to high school.”
With the collaboration of the players and Michael Flynn’s final decision, the girls are currently playing a 4-3-3 formation.
“This formation facilitates passing in the midfield by creating triangles between the midfielders and it causes the outside defenders to be more mobile,” Simenc said. “[This] allow[s] them to participate in our offensive attacks.”
The girls’ advanced experience levels help when playing this formation. Many of the players play for clubs, such as Force, Peninsula and the San Jose Earthquakes Girls Development Academy.
The team, currently consisting of 24 players, must have their mind set towards how competitive they need to play at a varsity level.
“The players are the ones that set the bar for themselves,” said team manager Olivia Chan. “So it’s really up to them to dictate how competitive they want to make it.”
Compared to other sports, soccer has a higher demand for skill.
“It’s definitely one of the hardest teams to make [because] it’s such a popular sport,” Simec said. “[In] soccer, everyone has been playing since they were [young].”
The Dons have many strong areas throughout their formation.
“I think our team is certainly strongest in the midfield,” Simenc said. “Many of our most talented players play there. We also have a very strong defensive line.”
Another strength of the Dons is their speed.
“We also have a lot of speed with the forwards so I think that will play a big role too,” Stokesberry said.
The Dons have many key players, such as Stokesberry and junior goalie Nicole Shulman.
“[She] has great communication as well as being able to play the ball well with her feet.” Hannah Flynn said. “Stokesberry is a key player because of the plays she can make in helping our team advance the field.”
The Dons also played against Woodside on Dec. 12, but the game occured after the Outlook’s print deadline.