For eight straight years, the girls soccer team at Liberty-Madera Ranchos went undefeated in the North Sequoia League, winning 82 straight games and eight consecutive league titles.
But last week, that streak came to an end at the hands - and feet - of Yosemite High, as the Badgers (8-2-1, 1-0-1 NSL), tied the Hawks (7-8-1, 2-0-1 NSL) 2-2 at home in double overtime.
“We played tough, aggressive, and good soccer,” Head Coach Vanessa Jasper said. “It was a great game. We’ll get them next time.”
At halftime, with both teams playing on a sloppy field, the Badgers fell behind 2-0 and things seemed to be set for the Hawks to continue their winning streak.
But Jasper, and coach Larry Archer gave a pep talk to their players, and with a few minor adjustments, Jasper said things began to click.
Within five minutes of each other in the first 20 minutes of the half, leading Badger scorer Peyton Garner notched two shots that found the net to even up the score. Garner has booted 20 goals this season in 11 games.
From there, both teams clawed for victory as the game moved into two 10-minute extra periods.
Jasper said goalkeeper Charlotte Borough continued her impressive year as an absolute blockade, batting away shots for 14 saves to bring her up to 39 on the season.
Sarah Meeks, a defensive center, also had a strong performance, Jasper said.
“All of the girls gave 100% and more,” Jasper said. “It was one of those games that will stick with them for a lifetime.”
Though the winning streak ended on Yosemite’s Raupp Field, Liberty continues its undefeated streak at 84 games. The rematch for both teams is scheduled for Feb. 3 at Liberty High.
This week, the girls team was scheduled to go on the road against Chowchilla (4-11-1, 0-2 NSL) on Wednesday, and play another away game against Kerman (4-8-1, 0-2-1 NSL) on Friday.
Boys continue to grow
For the Badger boys (2-13, 0-3 NSL), a tough week did lead to two losses, but Head Coach Rick Lemberg says his young group of players is maturing as a team.
On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Liberty (7-8-4, 1-2 NSL) entered Badger Stadium and came away with a 1-0 win on a penalty kick in the second half.
“It was a good game and we played very well,” Lemberg said. “It was a spirited game for our guys.”
Goalkeeper Matt Williams notched six saves, while Chris Ward led the attack for three shots on goal.
On Thursday, Jan. 19, powerhouse Washington Union (15-5, 3-1 NSL) also came to Yosemite High and finished with a 6-3 win as both teams battled through mud and grime.
Lemberg said his roster was depleted due to illness, injuries, and a school theater event, so he only had 13 players. In the first half, a Badger player got hit in the head and had to leave the game, Lemberg said, another player was catching the flu, and another player suffered a knee injury, leaving the roster at 10 players, one short of the usual number on the field per team.
“With all of that, we played a very good game,” Lemberg said, despite a poor first half as the Panthers went up 5-0. “These young men were up for the challenge and we scored three goals in the second half.”
Scorers included Michael Stieler, Jacob Pitkanen, and Ethan Conti.
“To me the importance of the week was the growth and development of our players,” Lemberg said. “We are a young team. They had some adversity but they didn’t give up. They are maturing and growing as soccer players, and that is a great sign.”
The boys team was scheduled to go on the road against Chowchilla (4-8-1, 0-2 NSL) Tuesday, with scores unavailable by press time. They are scheduled to play two more road games this week, against Kerman (15-2-1, 4-0 NSL) Thursday and Sierra (8-4, 1-1 NSL) Friday.