By Fred J. Robledo
If the Bishop Amat High School girls soccer team has visions of winning a CIF-Southern Section Division 3 title, it can look directly at its defense, specifically sweeper Jessie Gener and stopper Alyssa Cabral, whose chemistry is growing with each shutout.
Visiting La Salle had its chances in Tuesday’s Del Rey League game that could have forced a three-way tie for first, but it didn’t have a lot of quality chances, firing off just six shots and only a couple that forced Amat goalkeeper Nicole Ragano to work up a sweat.
Bishop Amat’s Selena Quezada and Yazmin Montoya ended the drama late, scoring in the 73rd and 76th minutes respectively to give Amat breathing room in a 3-0 victory.
But more importantly it was Amat’s fifth straight shutout — a sign that the Division’s second-ranked team could be hitting its stride as the playoffs near.
Amat improved to 17-1 and 4-0 in league while ninth-ranked La Salle dropped to 11-6-2 and 2-2.
In Amat’s first nine games it allowed nine goals, which included its lone loss, a 6-2 setback against Ayala in which several players were out ill.
During Amat’s current 10-game win streak, it has allowed just three goals after making the adjustment of moving the more versatile Cabral from sweeper to stopper with the speedier Gener sweeping things up.
“Jesse is really fast, she’s got deceiving speed,” Amat coach Ruben Gonzalez said. “If a defender makes a mistake, she can cover for them. If she makes a mistake, she’s fast enough to cover for herself.
“With Alyssa, she plays premiere (club soccer) and has a good soccer sense. She helps us with those quick transitions from defense to offense. But overall, we have a good core of defenders, it has just taken a while to get everyone healthy and to get everyone to understand what we want to do.”
La Salle played its best soccer in the first half, but fell behind when goalkeeper Cassidy Rey took a chance and sped out of the penalty area trying to clear a ball.
Unfortunately for Rey, her clearance ricocheted off Amat midfieler Natalie Rivas and dropped in front of Kathleen Zamora, who redirected it back on goal before Rey could race back and stop it, giving Amat a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute.
“It was just a misjudgment on her part,” La Salle coach Edgar Manvelyan said of Rey. “Even after the goal, I thought we played well. This field makes it tough to move the ball around because it’s in such bad shape, but that’s not an excuse, we should have created more chances.”
La Salle tried pulling even by adding an extra forward in the final 15 minutes trailing 1-0. But by doing so Amat was able to capitalize and score twice down the stretch.
“I had to make a change,” Manvelyan said. “I wanted to go for the tie or the win. On the road you want some kind of result, but it left us open in the back and that’s how it goes.”
Quezada’s goal to stretch Amat’s lead to 2-0 in the 73rd minute was a result of just hard work, however.
Ragano actually got the assist on a long clearance that left Quezada battling La Salle’s Leila Laurila on a dead-run toward the goal.
Quezada fought her off, angling a nice-placed shot in the left corner that drew a smile from her coach.
“Selena will give you 110 percent every time,” Gonzalez said. “She doesn’t have the skills that other players do, but she’s always fighting and always getting goals like that.”