In the best of circumstances, Valencia High School girls soccer coach Kimberly Chavez-Burkhard knew it was going to be an uphill climb for her team against Hope Christian.
But all things considered, she was happy with the way the Jaguars competed in a 5-0 home field loss to arguably the top team in Class 4A this past Monday. Valencia (9-8) was missing a number of key players due to injury, which forced Chavez-Burkhard to shuffle positions and assignments in a situation where it would been ideal to have everyone in familiar roles.
“I had about four starters that are basically out,” Chavez-Burkhard said. “… I thought we adjusted really well and I thought the girls that I put in, some of them were in positions that weren’t necessarily their positions.”
That included senior Nicholette Hawkins, who was forced to fill in as a defender. It was a busy afternoon on that half of the field for the Jaguars, as Hope out-shot them by a 13-to-3 count. Hawkins gave a tenacious effort, contesting as many Huskies opportunities as she possibly could.
“We’re all a team, so we’re there for each other,” Hawkins said. “We’re willing to step out of our comfort zone and step in for other people that are injured. I was playing defense, and I don’t really do that.”
The Jaguars struggled to defend against the size and skill of Huskies sophomore striker Savanah Sanchez, who finished with three goals and an assist. Sanchez began the scoring when she headed in a corner kick from Hope’s Zylee Dominguez in the 13th minute, and provided the final margin in similar fashion, heading in another corner from Dominguez in the 74th minute.
In between, she scored from about 20 yards out and set up teammate Hannah Gutierrez for a goal with a cross.
“She’s good. That was one of the issues on the corner (kicks), is that we couldn’t get up high enough,” Chavez-Burkhard said. “We haven’t played anybody that aggressive on corners, which is good, because they need to know how to do that. We’ve practiced it, but to do it actually in a game is a lot different. I thought they shut her down pretty good in the center, but if we left her open, that’s when she scored.”
It wasn’t just Sanchez, however. Hope Christian dominated possession thanks to precision passing and ball control while spending the majority of the contest on Valencia’s half of the field.
Valencia goalie Kylee-Ashley Kurtz was under duress the entire game and finished with 18 saves. In short, it could’ve been much worse, especially against a Huskies squad that had averaged nine goals per outing in their previous five victories.
“I’m really proud of my team,” Hawkins said. “They’ve come a long way. We all work together and the score, we don’t really care about that. We just work together as a team.”
Hope Christian coach Amy Fankam came away impressed with the effort of the Huskies opponent.
“Just really hard working, went into every tackle,” Fankam said. “It’s fun to play teams like that, where it’s not just one or two players, but the entire team really steps up and plays hard.”
For Chavez-Burkhard, having the chance to put her players in challenging situations could prove to be beneficial as the season hits its stretch run.
“I put a lot of girls in different positions, which is good for us,” she said. “That way we see who can play different positions and who can step up when need be. When you play a hard game like this, some people step up more than others, but as a whole, I thought everybody kind of stepped up.
“But it’s good for me to see where my weaknesses (are). I was able to see that. Just to see certain areas that we need to kind of work on going forward.”