Benefield: Loss a wakeup call for SRJC women's soccer squad

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The Bear Cubs women’s soccer team brought more gusto to their effort in the second half, but it was too little, too late as they dropped their Big 8 Conference home opener 2-0 Friday to the Folsom Lake Falcons.

The loss drops the Bear Cubs to 4-2-1 overall and 0-2 in the Big 8. They lost 2-1 on the road at Cosumnes River on Tuesday.

In addressing the squad after the game, coach Crystal Chaidez was clear — the slide must stop here.

“The turning point has come,” she said. “This cannot be the norm.”

Chaidez said not everyone is playing from the same script — at least as far as work rate goes.

Sophomore captain Morgan Jernigan said the Bear Cubs have the talent — they just need to marry that with consistent effort.

“We have to ask the big question: ‘Why are we here?’” Jernigan, a goalkeeper who prepped at Windsor High, said after the game. “It can’t be just the select few that work hard.”

Folsom Lake was too talented to have the Bear Cubs show up not ready to play.

The Falcons came into the contest 5-0-2 overall but 0-0-1 in conference after tying San Joaquin Delta Tuesday.

The Falcons dominated possession in the first half, scoring 18 minutes into the game when Emily Doty put her right foot on a cross, sending the ball past the outstretched arm of a diving Jernigan. It was Doty’s fourth goal of the season and it came just as Chaidez was urging the Bear Cubs to lock down and not give up easy crosses into the box.

With a little more than seven minutes to play in the first half, the Falcons struck again when they again managed to get off a cross, this time from the foot of Folsom freshman Sarah Scott that found freshman Caroline Guthrie, who made it 2-0.

The slow start was unacceptable, especially in the face of Folsom’s pace of play, according to defender Ana Hernandez, a sophomore from Analy High.

“It shouldn’t have taken us to the second half to realize it. That should never happen,” she said. “We need the work rate right off the bat.”

At halftime, Chaidez singled out the effort of sophomore defenders Ryan Hernandez from Analy and Kese McQuillen, who prepped at Ukiah High, as well as forward and Casa Grande alum Gizela Carranza — but called on the rest of the squad to step up.

“(They) were playing unreal and lights out and putting it all out there and I said, ‘What are you guys offering these girls and these teammates that are putting it all out there?’” she said.

But Chaidez said she saw that disjointed effort sneaking into practices of late. After the loss to Cosumnes and worried that perhaps her message about the pressures that Big 8 play brings wasn’t getting through, Chaidez turned to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. She pulled up one of his quotes on her phone at a midweek practice.

“‘Football is not how you handle the good situations, it’s how you handle the bad ones,’” she said. “We are obviously in a bad situation of losing two games in our first week, so it’s going to test us; it’s going to show a lot about our character and show really who we are as a team, what the rest of our weeks of conference are going to look like for us.”

Despite the Bear Cubs’ solid run through preseason and near-endless talk about the fierceness of the Big 8 competition, Chaidez said some of her players appeared shell-shocked this week.

“I think it’s been a huge awakening for this team that this is our conference,” she said. “I think this year is going to be the strongest it’s ever been, but you hope that your preseason sets you up for conference.”

The Bear Cubs were 4-0-1 in preseason and scored 15 goals in five games. But they managed just one goal against Cosumnes and were blanked by Folsom.

It did not help things that they were without the services of their central midfielder, Kathy Monroy, who is out with a knee injury. A controlling and calming presence, Monroy was clearly missed Friday.

“It is a loss, absolutely, when you have someone who is tenacious and crafty, and you lose that part of your midfield, things change,” Chaidez said. “But I always look at that as an opportunity for other players to step up and sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t.”

Chaidez gave the team the weekend off — but not totally.

There will be no formal training, no mandatory gatherings, but she asked her team captains to get the squad together in some fashion to help them craft their own strategy for moving forward. After all, they face a stout San Joaquin Delta team Tuesday. The Big 8 Conference doesn’t give teams a lot of time to regroup.

A little alone time might help, Jernigan said.

“I think we really have to evaluate where we are coming from and where our heart is,” Jernigan said.

That said, Jernigan believes the message is getting through and believes in the team’s ability to rally.

“If we have the heart we say we do,” she said, “then yeah, I think we can bounce back.”

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

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