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Hawks come back for Div. II victory

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Liberty’s Brooke Wristen tries to slide a ball past the Sanger goalkeeper in the first half of Friday’s playoff game. Wristen got two shots past her in a 2-1 victory.


The Liberty Hawks girls soccer team came back from a goal down to score twice in a six minute span for a 2-1 victory in the Div. II quarterfinals at Liberty.

The fourth-seeded Hawks, despite going 10-0 in the North Sequoia League and ran their league unbeaten streak to 100 straight games against Div. IV and V opponents, were moved to Div. II this season and allowed an early goal to fifth-seeded Sanger, who competed in the County/Metro Athletic Conference facing Div. I and Div. II teams.

“It’s really amazing because we came from Div. III,” midfielder Holly Strong said. “To head to the Div. II semifinals is, wow.’

Strong assisted on both goals scored by Brooke Wristen for the victory.

“She’s my girl,” Strong said. “She’s my go-to. When I look up, I look to my outsides first, but see her because she’s making a run.”

However, trailing early is new territory for the Hawks.

“Our biggest thing is we are rarely scored on first,” head coach Erick Walker said. “Last week against Kerman was the first time we’ve been scored on first and we came back and battled. That kind of helped tonight. If we score first, we’re okay. They scored, but we had the chances. It wasn’t like they were owning the game. It was a great game. I knew we were going to get some opportunities. When Brooke got that one, I knew we were going to be okay.”

The Hawks next played top seeded Edison-Fresno, who were CMAC co-champions and defeated the Hawks 2-1 on Jan. 3, at McLane Stadium on Tuesday.

“It’s great to get the win against questionable officiating,” Walker said. “We have had a week off. We had some game rust coming into the game. It took about 10-15 minutes before we got going. They were pressuring a lot. Once we start settling in, we were okay.”

The Hawks had six chances to score in the first half, but couldn’t come away with a goal.

However, the Apaches got on the board in the second half. The Apaches attacked the Hawks goal, but goalkeeper Carly Tynan appeared to have made a catch. But, the Apaches knocked the ball out of Tynan’s hands and then earned a free kick from about 23 yards away.

Sanger shot to the right of the Hawks wall and off the right post. The ball angled into the net for a 1-0 lead 11 minutes into the second half.

The Hawks came right back four minutes later. Lauren Alexander kept the ball in the offensive end. She sent a pass to Strong in the middle, who looked up and sent the ball to the front for Wristen.

An open Wristen got ahead of a defender and shot over the Sanger goalkeeper’s head under the crossbar for the tying goal.

Liberty struck six minutes later with the go-ahead goal. This time, Strong got the ball in the middle near midfield. She looked up for Wristen and fired a pass that got her open.

Wristen drew the keeper out and sent the ball over her into the middle of the net for the go-ahead goal in the 21st minute.

“It was amazing,” Strong said. “I got goose pimples all over my body. It was a great feeling.”

“They see each other so well,” Walker said. “They play club together. They’ve played the past two years. They know each other so well. Brooke is always going to be Holly’s go-to.”

The Hawks had a couple of chances in the second half, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

In the final 10 minutes, Liberty sweeper Zoey Richey cleared out a ball in front of Tynan and Tynan caught a high shot on goal to secure a 2-1 victory.


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