By Dante Quazzo
Controlling possession is critical in a balanced offensive attack and University High School dominated control of the ball in a 2-0 non-league victory over International on Friday at the Crocker Amazon Soccer Fields.
The Red Devils (14-2-1) were able to break a tight International defense with consistent pressure and patience, giving them opportunities in the Jaguars’ (10-3-2) territory.
“We just wanted to be patient in the back and not force things into their defense,” said University head coach Deejae Johnson. “We tried to get behind them by drawing them out. They’re a very organized, tough defensive team that doesn’t concede a lot of goals.”
That patience paid off late in the first half, when University junior Nikki Leong broke free down the sideline and lobbed the ball into the International box in the 25th minute. The ball bounced around in the box before University senior captain Adrian Kerester corralled the ball and sent a shot that ricocheted off the post and into the net for the first score.
“We just kept moving the ball around, and didn’t ever really give up,” Kerester said. “We kept shooting on goal, so our persistence helped us.”
Kerester also scored in the 78th minute off a feed from Nicki Symanovich to put the game out of reach.
The Red Devils tallied 18 shots on goal to the Jaguars’ one, as a result of consistent possession.
“We wanted to maintain possession, keep the ball moving,” Johnson said. “We wanted to see if we could find combinations that were in our advantage, and if we didn’t we didn’t want to force it into what we thought was a strong defensive unit.”
Despite the high shot total, International goalkeeper Emilia Omerberg had a stellar performance. Her greatest save may have come in the 18th minute, when Leong headed a ball towards an empty portion of the net. Omerberg sprinted to the corner of the goal and dove to deflect the ball out of bounds in a spectacular display of athleticism.
“[She was] phenomenal,” International assistant coach Nate Bridge said, filling in for head coach Carlos Bover. “You see saves like that once a season, and that was just one of those saves. She was all over the place.”
Although the University attack was able to break through the International defense, Bridge saw positives in his team’s play that bode well for the future.
“Frankly, I can’t fault their effort at all,” Bridge added. “We knew we were playing a very technical team in University, and we came out here to defend against that. We kept our spaces pretty tight and kept our organization well.”
The Red Devils are peaking during the middle of league play, having won 12 of their last 13 games. University will face off against Waldorf next Tuesday while International will look to rebound against Pescadero on Monday.