Benefield: SRJC women's soccer just getting warmed up

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The good news is the Santa Rosa Junior College women’s soccer team won its home opener Friday afternoon in dominating fashion, putting away College of the Redwoods 4-0. The better news is it could have been even more lopsided if the Bear Cubs had put away any number of chances in front of the Corsairs’ net.

But these are early days yet. The Bear Cubs were happy to have notched a win, set the tone for the defense of their home field going forward and to have secured a key shutout.

Bear Cubs coach Crystal Chaidez said the important thing at this early stage of the season was simply the creation of chances. As the season grinds on, those shots will be need to be goals. All in good time, she said.

“The biggest thing for me was the ideas and the amount of opportunities we got to have a shot on goal or a chance to score … later on in the season, it’s going to be finishing,” she said. “They just have to take it as a learning moment.”

But Chaidez said the sheer number of chances, and that they came from a number of different players and from different build-up situations, is all positive.

“The most important thing for us is our quality of soccer and to keep the zero on the other side of the scoreboard, because that’s huge,” she said.

The Bear Cubs got two goals and an assist from Gizela Carranza, a sophomore who prepped at Casa Grande High. Krystal Garcia, a sophomore from Fresno, also scored, as did Emily Berganza, a freshman who played at Middletown High. Kathy Monroy, a freshman from Montgomery High, got two assists.

It’s a balanced offense that should prove important for the Bear Cubs.

The Bear Cubs went 14-6-3 overall last year and 10-4-2 in the Big 8 Conference. They advanced to the second round of the NorCal Regionals before falling to No. 1-seeded Sierra College.

Their offense was powered by Montgomery grad Eden Brooker, who scored 22 goals and had six assists in 19 games. She is now playing at South Dakota State University.

Different from last year, this team is likely to share the load a little more, but Carranza might be the torchbearer on offense.

“She is full of confidence right now and full of just love of the game,” Chaidez said after the game. “She just works. When you see her play, you want to work harder … she changes the heart and the drive of the rest of the team — it’s like they want to get her the ball, they want to support her. You need players on the team like that for that momentum that they give the rest of the group.”

Carranza, who played in 17 games last season and started nine, had scored four goals in two games coming into Friday’s game. Make it six.

Playing with Carranza was Garcia, a forward who played in 19 games last season, starting 13 of those and scoring four goals with one assist.

“They are a really awesome duo to watch,” Chaidez said. “They know each other, they know each other’s runs, they know what each other likes and where the ball should go. They have just taken over with their maturity.”

But the offense and most of the forward movement starts with Monroy in the center of the midfield.

“She’s just a beautiful player to watch,” Chaidez said. “She’s so confident, so smart and she just kind of glides through things. The girls get to watch her and learn from her. She’s very mature on and off the field. She sets the tone for us.”

Chaidez is still working with her back line after losing sophomore defensive stalwart Sinai Tlatilpa to eligibility issues.

Mariah Blevins, a Maria Carrillo grad, Kese McQuillen from Ukiah High and Analy grad Ana Hernandez, all sophomores, fill out the back line, with freshman Dom Garzoli from Santa Rosa stepping into a starting role.

“Our back line is learning. They still have growing pains,” Chaidez said after the game. “I thought our back line did awesome. They had moments where they got found out but they need those moments to learn and get better.”

And they helped goalkeeper Jarely Figueroa, who prepped at Roseland University Prep, record a shutout, which was crucial for Chaidez.

“One of our goals is of our six preseason games is to have four shutouts. That was No. 2 for us,” she said.

The Bear Cubs beat Butte College 4-0 on the road Aug. 30 and tied Canada 2-2 in a road game Tuesday.

And the Bear Cubs have two quality goalkeepers — Figueroa and fellow sophomore Morgan Jernigan. Both are getting time at this point in the season.

Chaidez said one of the goals through the next two games before conference play starts at Cosumnes River on Sept. 17 is staying aggressive on game days and ironing out the timing issues that led to countless offside calls and a slew of missed chances on goal.

“We just have to get used to (positions) and how each other plays,” Carranza said. “Each person has different style of play.”

That can be solved with time and trust, Chaidez said.

“Our passes, I thought, in and behind were very dangerous. It’s just that little offside step of being overanxious to get in behind,” she said. “It’s trusting that the quality of the pass is going to be there so I don’t have to be there before the pass comes.”

When asked about the litany of offside calls, Monroy couldn’t help but laugh and shake her head.

“We just need to hold it. We have really fast players up top so we just need to read it, we need to take a minute and pause and then just let the ball go,” she said.

It’s still early days and those things — the timing, the confidence, the trust — will come in time, Chaidez said.

They will need to. Because when Big 8 play rolls around, teams like Folsom, Sierra and Delta won’t give the Bear Cubs so many extra chances.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud, “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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