Prep Soccer: San Benito hands Christopher its first loss

San Benito's Kayla Champion and Christopher's Gina Rodriguez compete for the ball during the Balers' 1-0 win on Jan. 10. Champion scored the only goal of the game.

GILROY — The Christopher girls soccer team was handed not one, but two huge blows heading into Friday’s Monterey Bay Gabilan League opener.
The Cougars were already scrambling to replace one of their leading scorers and last year’s Offensive Player of the Year, Paulina Llamas, when starting goalie Lauren Ginn dislocated her shoulder during warm-ups. But senior utility player Emma Morley said giving up is not in her team’s nature.
“Everyone was nervous, but what can you do? You can’t really make that go away,” she said. “We played hard, I thought we played a really good game and we dominated the whole time.”
Christopher had multiple second-half chances, but weren’t able to erase the early score by San Benito. The Haybalers walked away victorious, snapping the Cougars’ undefeated streak with a 1-0 decision on the road.
“We knew that coming out that they were going to be strong and they didn’t disappoint,” Baler coach Becky Bonner said. “We were really lucky in the second half, they had a lot of opportunities and luckily none of them ended up working out. …I was really proud that my team didn’t give up, which I think is important for any team — whether you’re winning, losing, tied — that you’re playing as intensely as possible.”
San Benito’s goal came in the fifth minute off the foot of junior forward Kayla Champion. It was almost stopped by back-up goalie Paulina Sanchez, but she was only able to get her fingertips on it before it landed in the back of the net.
The Balers had six shots on goal in the remainder of the game and could’ve easily racked up the score to 3-0 or 4-0 had it not been for big stops by Morley, who was playing sweeper.
“I thought she totally controlled the defense back there and limited their chances to minimal chances,” Cougars coach Robert Beardsley said. “She played probably the best game I’ve ever seen her play.”
The Cougars had just two shots on goal in the first half, but upped their chances significantly after the break. Unfortunately for the home team, Balers goalie Hailey Blackburn was there to meet them every time. Blackburn came up with six saves in the game.
“We’re really lucky, Hailey (Blackburn) is actually a freshman, and so we were fortunate to get her this year,” Bonner said. “She’s developing just beautifully. We have a great goalie coach, Victor Perez, and he’s been working with her and our back-up goalie. …They come out every day at practice and they work really hard and I feel like you really see that in the games with them.”
San Benito (4-3-1 overall, 2-0 in league) will look to stay perfect in league play when it hosts Gilroy at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday.
Christopher (8-1, 1-1), who has outscored its opponents 45-3 this season, will look to get back on track at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday at Alisal.
“We have to realize that in our league all the teams are good,” Beardsley said. “There are going to be teams that are going to beat you, but we have to be able to come out and compete every single week against all the strong teams in our league. That was an excellent team, they played really well, but I think we played well enough to win the game.”

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