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Third time charm for Lady Honkers
Opportunity knocked twice for Marlene Sandoval in Willows on Thursday, and the second time it came a knockin', she answered the door.
After being stopped on a penalty kick attempt earlier in the first half, the Willows High sophomore forward lifted a shot up and over the Live Oak keeper and into the mesh during extra time for the game's only goal in the Lady Honkers' 1-0 victory.
It was the third time the two teams met this season and the previous two contests both ended with 1-0 scores, neither of which favored Willows.
Sandoval had a golden opportunity to put Willows on the board with a PK in the 27th minute, but the Live Oak keeper did not guess in either direction and held her ground, catching Sandoval's attempt in her mid-section.
"I knew I could have kicked it harder, I was just trying to get it high," Sandoval said about the shot.
Vindication came mere moments before the halftime whistle, when this time she got her foot under the ball.
"It felt great. I got under the ball the way I wanted to. It was unexpected, but I got it," she smiled.
The goal also gave Willows coach Bud Ramirez reason to smile.
"We needed that," he said of Sandoval's goal, "we hadn't scored against them all year. This was the same kind of game as the other two. We focused on 00 because we knew she was a good passer."
Willows keeper Jennifer Chappell and the Lady Honkers defensive stonewall made sure the one-goal advantage stood up. Devin Perez tore around the field making slide tackles that interrupted some of Live Oak's offensive charges, and even blocked a shot headed for the net off a loose ball out in front.
Chappell played aggressively in goal, and said improved communication with her defense was key to her willingness to come out and challenge.
"My defense was pretty strong. We've been working on talking and calling the ball," she said.
That communication was evident in frequent shouts of "Goalie!" as defenders directed her to come out and play the ball, although she never required much prompting to do so.
"It feels amazing," she gasped about the win. "It fells great, we lost to them the other times. We gave it everything we had and stayed focused."
Willows finished the regular season with a record of 6-8-4 and went 4-3-2 to finish second in the Sacramento Valley League-One.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.