By Jeremy Balan
As Lowell High School’s girls soccer team continues to romp through its Academic Athletic Association schedule, the competition for the title of the league’s second-best squad has been foggy.
That race didn’t get any clearer after a 2-2 tie between Balboa and Lincoln on Thursday at Balboa High School.
The Mustangs (2-0-2 in AAA) carried a 2-1 lead into the halftime break, but Balboa (2-3-1) provided a moment of excitement in a largely uneventful second half with an equalizing goal in the 59th minute.
Balboa senior Yasmeen Gardner sent a free kick into the penalty area from the left corner, the ball bounced around in the box and caromed to freshman Calvonnia Kelly, who tapped a goal into the unattended net.
Kelly also scored to even the game at 1-1 in the 28th minute on another ball from Gardner. Again on the left wing, Gardner sent a low crossing pass to the near post, where Kelly volleyed the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
“[Gardiner] is a big asset. I just need her to work on her conditioning a little bit,” said Balboa head coach Rocio Ramirez. “Other than that, she has amazing footwork.”
The Bucs battled back to get a point, but likely would have secured three if not for two defensive breakdowns in the first half.
Both Lincoln goals were scored as a result of breakaways from speedy Mustangs’ forwards after drawn-up Balboa defenders pinched in at midfield.
The first goal was scored by sophomore Juliana Martinez in the second minute and the second came on a penalty kick from junior Laura Alvarez-Martinez in the 32nd minute, after senior Erika Ruiz was fouled from behind by a Balboa defender in the penalty area.
“We came here for three points, but unfortunately we didn’t get them,” said Lincoln assistant coach Jose Ricardo Menendez. “It’s still OK. We’re still adding [points] and you have to give credit to Balboa for defending its home turf.”
Balboa remains in fourth place in the Rueda Division and still needs to make up a lot of ground on O’Connell and Washington if they want to make the playoffs, while Lincoln remains undefeated, but is still behind Galileo in the Heinline Division.
The Mustangs haven’t won a AAA championship since 1997, but are the only team other than Lowell to win a league title and Menendez feels that on any given day, Lincoln can take down the 14-time defending champions.
“Lowell is a great team, but that doesn’t mean we can’t beat them if we play like we’re supposed to,” Menendez said.