Twelve girls soccer teams representing various high schools from the Central Valley and other parts of California came together in Madera for a two-day showcase on Friday and Saturday in Memorial Stadium.
The event, held at Madera High School for the third straight year, gave the players a chance to show off their skills in front of college coaches.
“It shows them that there is a way out,” Madera High head coach Cameron Hill said. “There’s college coaches, so maybe they will be seen. Also, the competition level is high, so they know that there is a lot to improve on when you play these tough teams. It shows them the level that we need to get to.”
The CentralValley teams who attended the Madera Showcase were Clovis North, Clovis West, Central, Clovis High, Bullard and the Coyotes as the host.
“We have a lot of teams come through,” Hill said. “It just shows that — even though Madera is a smaller town — we can still host a big event that a lot of people want to come to.”
The Coyotes faced Cardinal Newman from Sonoma County on the first day of the showcase, losing 1-0.
“We were unfortunate in the end,” Hill said. “We lost on the last kick of the game.”
On the second day, the Coyotes lost 4-1 against Carondelet from Contra Costa County. The Cougars took a 1-0 lead when Lexi Zandonella scored from about 25 yards out. Madera’s Penelopi Leach tied the game 1-1 on a penalty kick in the 49th minute.
But the Cougars continued to punish the Coyotes with long range shots. That included Maddie Winter’s free kick in the 62nd minute, which gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead. Zandonella scored her second goal with another shot from distance in the 65th minute, making it 3-1.
“They did take the long shots, but it’s something you have to give up when you’re playing such a good team because you have to be more compact defensively,” Hill said. “Sometimes you’re dropping back too far and that’s how they take those long shots.”
In the 77th minute, Maddie Buckley dodged a few defenders and took a shot from close range to make it 4-1.
“This is the No. 2 team in Northern California. It was always gonna be an uphill battle, but the girls fought and they did well to stay in the game as long as they did,” Hill said. “We could have got a draw out of it if things would have gone different, but it didn’t.”
With this year’s showcase now behind them, the Coyotes look forward to hosting the event again next year.
“A lot of teams already said they want to come back,” Hill said. “It’s a good event and it’s a good way to get away from tournaments where you’re playing four games in two days or even five. There doesn’t always have to be a tournament winner. You’re just playing against good competition.”
Madera 3, Tulare Western 1
Penelopi Leach’s energy has been a key factor for the Madera High girls soccer team throughout the season. That was the case again when the Coyotes won 3-1 against Tulare Western.
Leach out-hustled the Tulare Western defenders throughout the game and scored two goals to help her team get the win at home on Dec. 12.
“I just get into the mindset that we need to be energized,” Leach said. “One person’s energy can carry the whole team, so I put that up on myself to make sure that I’m always energetic and always working hard, hoping that it carries on to the rest of the players.”
The senior scored the first goal in the 35th minute, chasing down a long ball and shooting from close range to make it 1-0. A minute later, Leach raced past a couple of defenders and found the target again for her second goal.
“It was a lot of hard work and persistence,” Leach said. “We were getting a lot of chances, but we weren’t putting them in yet, so when I saw opportunities, I went as hard as I could and put it past the goalie.”
The Mustangs had a chance to score on a free kick in the 21st minute. That’s when Madera goalkeeper Yesenia Montoya came to the rescue, making a diving save to keep the ball out.
With both teams unable to find the target after Leach’s second goal, the first half ended with a 2-0 score.
Madera’s Brianna Chavez found the ball after a deflection and took a shot in front of the goal to make it 3-1. The Mustangs came up empty on another corner in the 66th minute and struggled to find the target for the rest of the game, giving the win to the home team.
“We passed really well tonight and we kept possession most of the game.,” Leach said. “We played a fast game, so our passing was really great.”
With the win, the Coyotes improved their record to 3-3-1.
“We are doing really well,” Leach said. “We still have a lot of growth, but we’re passing a lot, the chemistry is really great this year and our future is bright.”