On Friday, Dec. 16, the Lassen High School Lady Grizzly soccer team hosted a home game against the fierce Oroville Tigers.
By the start of the game, both teams were fighting the cold more than one another as the temperature was already below freezing.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Lassen looked sharp right off the bat and took advantage of their home field; the Grizzlies spent the first 10 minutes of the game in the Tiger’s half.
Captain Morgan Martin started things off early, rolling a ball from the end line past the keeper and in front of the goal, but Oroville cleared it before Gwyn Stubbs could connect with the cross.
Captain Jenna Monahan also had a good chance, as she nearly deflected a poor clearance into the goal.
Later, Paige Martin took a high-quality shot from the top of the box, but the Oroville keeper got just enough of the ball to keep her from scoring.
As the Tigers warmed up, the game became a little bit more evenly matched, but Lassen held a real advantage in terms of possession.
The defense held the Oroville attackers to just two chances on goal, and goalkeeper Lexie Robinson kept a perfect score sheet for the first half.
By the call of halftime, the score remained tied with no goals for either team.
After the break, the Grizzlies burst onto the field and dominated the game for the first 30 minutes.
In the first 5 minutes, Lassen had a pair of shots and a penalty kick that glanced off the post at the upper corner of the Tiger goal. They followed that up with some nice crossing from Monahan and Morgan Martin.
Morgan Martin had two breakaway opportunities, going one-on-one with the keeper, but regardless of all the attacks, the Oroville keeper was able to deny everything that came her way.
In the last 10 minutes, Oroville began to press forward, and with 3 minutes left in the game, the Tigers took advantage of a deflected clearance that stayed in front of the goal.
Amidst the scrum, the ball popped loose and found the back of the net, giving Oroville a 1-0 lead.
Unwilling to give up or give in, Lassen hit back with everything they could muster.
Oroville tried to keep the ball cleared away, but Lassen pressed hard taking five shots in the last three minutes.
In the final 60 seconds, Morgan Martin took the ball up the left side and was fouled.
Gabi Nielsen then sent the kick to Lily Buehler, who turned and found Morgan Martin toward the corner.
Morgan Martin then got the ball to Monahan in the penalty box. Monahan immediately turned and shot.
The Oroville Keeper deflected the shot on goal, but Nan Huskey was in a perfect position at the back door. With her left foot on the ball to put it over the line and into the goal, Lassen had tied up the score 1-1.
Once the Oroville side restarted play, time was called and Lassen tied their first game of the season, 1-1.
Coach Nielsen said, “This was by far the team’s best work of the season.”
The girls celebrated their progress, but their humility stayed about them as they turned their sights toward the rest of the season.
Nielsen later commented, “I am extremely proud of the girls’ mental toughness to come back and score with just three minutes left. That showed a lot of grit.”
Prior to the home game on Dec. 16, the Grizzlies put up a fight at the Foothill soccer tournament held from Dec. 9 to Dec. 10, as they faced off against three Division I schools.
The Grizzlies’ first match was played Friday morning in the drizzling rain against the tournament hosts, the Foothill Cougars.
Despite being wet and chilly, the Grizzlies came out in excellent form, pushing hard for scoring opportunities. Every possession was a real battle, with Monahan and Morgan Martin leading the attack.
Lassen made some nice runs up front, but could not get anything into the back of the net.
The Cougars were unable to get much past a very young defense comprised of four freshmen and a junior. One goal was able to slip by Captain Jordan McCloughan in goal, but she saved the other five shots on goal in the first half.
In the second half, McCloughan was replaced by Robinson in goal, and the defense stifled the Cougars, allowing only three shots on goal, all of which were saved by Robinson.
With Monahan rehabbing a hurt quad, she played about half the game and was not quite in top form, and the Grizzlies were just not able to find the equalizer. Her leadership and possession changed the dynamic up front, and earned her player of the game.
Lassen came away with their fourth 1-0 loss of the pre-season, knowing that they were in the game from start to finish, and one quality touch away from a goal.
In the second game of the tournament, Lassen faced off against the eventual tournament Champion, the Chico Panthers.
Lassen once again had a brilliant show of defense, especially in the first half where they kept Chico to shooting from distance and poor angles. Robinson had a magnificent first half, saving 10 of 11 shots on goal and frustrating the Panthers at every turn. The one goal that was scored was a wonderful touch from 10 yards away, with the attacker hitting the shot with her back to the goal.
At the half, Chico made some adjustments, and in the first 20 minutes of the half, came right at the defense and scored.
Once Lassen adjusted to the new attacking style, they were able to once again force the Chico team outside and taking lower quality shots, but not until the score was 6-0, which would become the final score.
Regardless of the high score, Lassen was praised by Chico Coach Sarah Parker for their mental toughness and level of play. Parker held her highest praise for Robinson, whose goalkeeping kept the Lassen side within striking distance throughout the first half and earned her the player of the game.
In their final game of the tournament, Lassen matched up against the Yuba City Honkers.
The Honkers were undefeated to this point in the pre-season and had just beaten the Foothill Cougars by a score of 6-0.
Lassen put McCloughan in goal, and their defense was again anchored by freshman Kaitlyn Nakanishi.
For the third time in three games, the attack came fast and furious. The Honkers came with speed and precise passing, and a hard cross from the corner that put lots of pressure on the young defense.
However, Lassen stood up to the pressure and kept those crosses out of the net.
Junior defender Erika Zimmermann identified the main scoring threat and kept her from scoring during the half. The only Yuba City goal came from a scramble in front of the goal as a shot ricocheted off of the back post, and a striker was able to put away the rebound.
The second half, Lassen made a few adjustments but played with the same level of intensity.
With the Honkers pressuring up the middle more than down the sidelines, Lassen found more shots coming from distance. The Yuba City shooter was able to find space 30 and 35 yards out, and tested Robinson as she tended goal the second half. The Honkers were able to drill a couple of shots from distance with pace over Robinson’s hands but under the bar, to give Yuba City a 3-0 lead and the win.
Once again, this was a frustrating game for the opposing team’s offense, as the Lassen defense played patient, organized ball and shut down many dangerous balls in front of the goal. Zimmerman’s leadership and aggressive play earned her player of the game.
Lassen coach Becky Compton and assistant coach Bob Nielsen remain very positive about their prospect in league, where they will face several similar schools.
“We are looking forward to league play in January, where we hope to have everyone healthy and the team firing on all cylinders,” said Nielsen, “Our defense will keep us in every game, and our offense is improving every day.”
The next home game for the Lady Grizzlies will be held on Jan. 6 against Durham High School.