Kanoa Football Club survived Shirley’s FC’s gallant stand, pulling off a nail-biting 2-1 victory in their title showdown in the girls U16 division of the 2018 NMIFA Spring Youth League last Saturday at the Francisco M. Sablan Middle School Field.
Repeatedly frustrated by Shirley’s pesky defense in the entire first half and the majority of the second, Paulynn Joyce and Sharmaine Francisco persevered and got the breaks they needed to deliver the goals for Kanoa.
Francisco knocked in the equalizer in the 60th minute, while Joyce hit the go-ahead off a free kick four minutes before the exciting finale wrapped up.
Francisco, whose uniform was covered with dirt as she fell down the pitch several times after fighting for possessions, looped a shot from center defense mid with Shirley’s goalie Irish Viray leaping to catch the ball. However, Francisco’s shot hit the top right corner crossbar first before Viray had a hand on it, but could not hang on to the ball, which dropped and rolled into the net.
Viray failed to make the save this time after doing so in the previous plays, as she hadn’t fully recovered yet from an injury she sustained when she used her left foot to successfully block a kick from Joyce a few minutes before Francisco’s game-tying goal.
The Shirley’s starting goalie was eventually replaced by Lily Podziewski, who did a great job containing both Francisco and Joyce in the first half. With Podziewski now having to protect Shirley’s goal, the team lost a solid defender that could pressure Kanoa’s attackers.
That void on defense gave Kanoa more chances to score and Joyce capitalized on one of those opportunities when she went for a kick from left midfield and the ball hit Coume Kaga’s hand, as the latter turned and tried to deflect the shot.
Joyce was given a free kick after Shirley’s infraction and read their opponents’ defense well as she cashed in on the shot. Joyce saw four Shirley’s defenders overlapping to their right so she went for the quick and low kick to the opposite side.
Pandemonium broke, both from Kanoa supporters at the sidelines and the players at the pitch, after Joyce’s conversion.
Another celebration came at the end of the game, as Kanoa kept the shaky lead and stole the win after an exhausted Shirley’s crew failed to counter attack in the closing minutes of the match that was made more intense by a lot of shoving from both camps.
Shirley, which lost to the same club in last fall’s finale, earlier boosted its chances to get even with Kanoa when it took a 1-0 lead off Therize Millare’s goal in the 29th minute. Millare’s goal came when she beat Kanoa’s left center defender and goalie Therize Millare missed on her attempt to deflect the former’s shot using her left leg.
Joyce, Francisco, and Sue Ann Huevos tried to answer back in the remaining minutes of the first half, hoping to knot the count at the break. However, they were denied by Shirley’s defenders, particularly by Podziewski, who would either kick the ball out or steal the possession.
Down at halftime and banged up with the physicality of the game, coach Raymond Zapanta said his players were losing their nerves a bit. However, he reminded them that there’s a lot of time left in the match.
“They just have to keep their emotions in check so they could focus more on their game. Just keep on attacking, don’t get so frustrated, and they will get there,” Zapanta said when asked on his instructions to the players at halftime.