Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera's Mariah Zapata controls the ball in the midfield during a 3-2 loss Friday in Memorial Stadium.
Although the Madera girls soccer team lost a close non-conference match to a strong Clovis Cougars team 3-2, the Coyotes proved they can play with any team they line up against.
“I thought we could defend and hold them. We thought we could get one and then defend some more. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we wanted to come out and control the second half,” Madera head coach Cameron Hill said.
Two goals by Itzel Rodriguez gave the Coyotes life. Her sizzling form to start the season gives Madera optimism for the campaign ahead.
“She’s one of the best players I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Hill said. “Itzel does a lot — she provides assists and gets goals and she combines well with others. She’s just got everything you want in a player of that caliber.”
Although the Coyotes faced a physical and determined opponent, they grabbed two goals in a 3-2 finish.
The Cougars were led by Brooklyn Woolf who scored two goals and made numerous runs to threaten a Coyote backline that had their hands full.
A goal in the first half to even the score going into halftime and two more in the second half to finish off the game became too much for the Coyotes.
“We got the first goal, but I think they were in more control in the first half. Our goal was a little bit against the run of play, but I thought we defended well,” Hill said. “It was unfortunate on the corner kick, I don’t know exactly what happened, but it went in and at that point of the game it was bad for us.”
After Rodriguez opened the scoring in the 12th minute, the Cougars responded with urgency. Although the Coyotes had the game’s first goal, Clovis was determined to take back the momentum.
Both teams played back and forth, probing for an opportunity before the Cougars found their equalizer in the final five minutes of the first half.
The Cougars and Coyotes entered the break tied at one, but the Cougars had the momentum heading into the second half.
That momentum culminated in two goals for the Cougars, but it also sprung the Coyotes into action.
After the Cougars made it 2-1, Rodriguez had a valiant run go awry after the Cougar goalkeeper sniffed out the chance.
Klarissa Ramos sent the ball into open space, allowing Rodriguez to run onto the ball in the opponent penalty area. Clovis couldn’t recover in time, but luckily their keeper sensed the danger in time.
Rodriguez then followed up with a free kick from 35 yards out in the 58th minute. The goal scorer slammed the ball with pace, narrowly missing her second as the ball dipped and bounced off the woodwork.
A close call for the Coyotes, but their aggressiveness continued to find them chances.
After a third goal by Woolf, Aubrey Martinez tried her luck inside the opponent final third with an outside-the-boot shot that sailed wide of the target.
Madera followed Martinez’ shot with one of the best chances they had all game.
Rodriguez and Carissa Gill played a crafty one-two in the final third.
Rodriguez picked the ball off her opponent before finding Gill in the middle of the pitch. Gill then played an instinctual pass into the path of Rodriguez who slammed the ball into the bottom left corner in the 78th minute.
Madera had their second goal but couldn’t find a third.
The work isn’t over the Coyotes. They welcome another strong team in Clovis North in their next match.