Sophomore Jamie Zahn gave Liberty a 1-0 lead on an unassisted goal in the game's seventh minute, and fellow sophomore Kassandra Espinoza, who started in place of injured goalkeeper Julie Morgan, did the rest by holding the Patriots scoreless. The victory was the Lions' third in a row.
Liberty (11-5-1, 9-2-0) combined superior ball control with swarming defense to limit the Patriots offensive opportunities and send them home with their fifth consecutive loss. "I thought we played well," said Liberty head coach Tony Martins. "I thought we started off strong and kind of died out at the end of the first half, but picked it up in sprints in the second half. We made a few changes; the girls utilized it and played well."
Heritage, in its first year of varsity competition, fields a squad dominated by freshmen and sophomores, and it showed. The overmatched Patriots didn't get possession of the ball until the ninth minute. Their first shot on goal came in the 10th minute.
The goal Daisy Sornia scored in the 10th minute to put Liberty on top 2-0 was just the beginning of a long night for Heritage goalkeeper Barsanti. The Lions' superior speed, epitomized by striker Yessy Martinez, set up 28 shots on goal and prevented Heritage from going on the attack.
"We connected, stuck to the plan, and hit hard to feet," said Liberty captain Lupita Sepulveda, who is one of only three seniors on the team. "We did what we were supposed to do and it worked out in the end."
When Heritage did manage to gain possession, it struggled fighting through the teeth of the Lion defense - and faced a bigger challenge getting past Espinoza, who made nine saves.
We are very, very young," said Heritage head coach Denise Corrado. The majority of my players are sophomores and freshmen, and to be young on offense is difficult. So we're kind of chalking it up, taking some bruises this year, and will be ready for it next year."
Despite the loss, Corrado saw some improvement in her young squad, especially from Barsanti, who bounced back from a rough start to finish with 26 saves.
Despite sitting in seventh place in the BVAL, the Patriots remain upbeat and realize their current bumps and bruises will only help them as they gain experience and learn to work as a team. "Sure, we are improving," said Corrado. "From the first time we stepped on the field to now has been a big improvement. We definitely have a gelling problem; we all come from a bunch of different teams. I think we will do much better next year."
The victory kept the Lions in second place behind Carondelet and assured them an almost certain post-season berth.
Both teams return to the field Tuesday, when the Lions travel to Antioch and Heritage hosts Carondelet at 5:15 p.m.