OAKLEY – Freedom freshman defender Mariann Romero has made several highlight-worthy goals off free kicks. However, she’ll never forget her latest highlight from Wednesday night’s 2-1 North Coast Section playoff opening win for eighth-seed Freedom against ninth-seed Foothill.
In the final minutes of the first half of extra time, Romero lined up her free kick following a foul that fellow freshman forward Eliana Lawrence drew after getting tackled on the sideline. Instead of playing the ball into the box where she had teammates waiting for her cross, she decided to go for goal, nailing a teardrop of a shot toward the back post, over the head of Foothill junior goalkeeper Jillian Barth.
“Usually I don’t take those kicks,” Romero said. “(Head coach Matt Oliveri) said’oh, go take the kick. I was just shocked.”
“(Romero’s) only a freshman and she’s played a big role for us all year,” Oliveri said. “We feel comfortable letting her take free kicks and getting the majority of the minutes and making decisions that she kind of wants to do on her own. Rather, it’s a shot or a cross back in, so it worked out pretty well.”
Romero’s match-winner comes after both Freedom and Foothill couldn’t get past each other’s defensive backlines throughout the second half. Freedom nearly pulled ahead late toward the end of regulation with a shot toward Barth’s far post, but Barth was able to get a fingertip on it just in time to force the corner. Just minutes before that, Foothill nearly took the lead off of a long shot into the box off of a free kick that was tipped away at the post by Freedom sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Zamora.
“It was definitely a good game,” Oliveri said. “We were pretty strong in the possession game, obviously Foothill’s a good team so you know they got through us a couple of times but we knew we wanted to stay focused.
“We knew it’s a long game and anything can happen. We just wanted to stay composed, keep our shape and stay within the game.”
Freedom struck first on a goal by senior forward Carly Singleton, who took advantage of a messy situation in Foothill’s six-yard box off a corner from Nayomi Ruiz where Foothill goalkeeper Katelyn Guerra couldn’t handle the corner into the box leading to a sort-of scrum inside Guerra’s six-yard box for the ball. Singleton fought through the crowd to poke the ball past Guerra into the back of the net for the opening goal in the ninth minute of the match. Foothill responded to pull even at one apiece with a goal off of a corner of their own that went through the gloves of Zamora, her lone blemish of the match.
“She almost got to it,” Oliveri said. “I think she got her fingertips on it, but she’s a great goalie, she’s been playing big games for us all year and we really count on her to be in charge back there. Mistakes happen, but she’s always ready to go.”
The win was the first for Freedom’s girls soccer program since the 2018-19 season, and their trip to the NCS Quarterfinals marks their first since the 2013-14 season.
They travel to Concord to take on top-seed Carondelet for their quarterfinals match up on Saturday.
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