By Malen Blackmon
The Brookhaven College soccer team muscled its way past Richland College 1-0. As of Oct. 8, both teams were ranked in the top three in national standings.
The match quickly escalated into a division showdown between two conference rivals Sept. 28 as the atmosphere intensified. The referees handed out yellow cards to players on both teams, with Brookhaven racking up three.
As the game began, Richland attacked early. The Thunderducks tested Bears goalie Gaby Roa with a quick shot on goal. In the 20th minute, Richland fired another shot toward Goa, but the shot bounced off the post. The Bears then switched on their offense, adjusting to the physicality of the game.
In the 35th minute, Bears defender Allison Kendrick took possession on a fast break. She passed the ball to Bears Mileena Zirretta, who assisted midfielder Tatiana Garcia for the goal. Brookhaven led 1-0.
In the 41st minute, Richland pushed for a goal on a corner kick attempt. Roa caught the ball, keeping Brookhaven’s 1-0 lead after the first half.
Early in the second half, Richland tried to shake Roa with another corner kick, but she snagged the ball.
With the clock ticking away, the match intensified as the crowd cheered loudly. In the 59th minute, midfielder Micah Pond was hit with a yellow card.
Ten minutes after the card, Richland forward Asia Revely received one for not listening to the referee on a call out of bounds. Shortly after, an official handed Bears forward Savanna Hernandez a yellow card – the team’s third.
The clock stopped after a Richland player fell and sprawled out on the pitch.
After the delay, Richland sped up the pace of play, desperately trying to force a goal to tie the game. In the 75th minute, Richland forward Claudia Pedroza attempted a shot that challenged the Bears’ defense, but Roa made the save.
In the 85th minute, Richland made one last attempt to tie the game, after the Thunderducks banged a shot off Brookhaven’s post. After Richland’s close attempt, the Bears maintained control of the ball for the final five minutes, shutting out the Thunderducks.
With another nationally-ranked team in the conference, the Bears hope to fend off district rivals to retain their national title. “It is a little bit of pressure, but with the talent we have, it should be easy,” Pond said. Roa said she is confident in her team’s chances to win another championship.
Jimmy Elder, head soccer coach, said: “We have always worked on keeping our players focused. With school, work and family, our players have many important distractions in their lives. … We continually remind them of the little things that must be considered to bridge the gap between a competitor and a champion.”
The Bears are undefeated in conference play. As of Oct. 2, Brookhaven is ranked second in the nation, moving up one spot from the previous week. The Bears will play away at 4 p.m on Oct. 16 against Richland.