With two of the Vine Valley Athletic League’s most prolific scorers squaring off in less than ideal weather once again, neither the Justin-Siena girls soccer team nor visiting Vintage could claim Trower Avenue bragging rights Monday night.
On Justin-Siena’s Senior Night at Dodd Stadium, the teams battled to a scoreless tie – 2½ weeks after settling for a 2-2 deadlock.
Vintage’s top scorer, junior Irais Hernandez, came closest with a shot that hit the right post early in the second half.
The Braves’ top scorer, freshman Tessa Salvestrin, followed with a rocket that Crushers senior goalkeeper Sam Linteo stopped inside the right post, and also headed a nice cross just wide left.
Unlike in their rain-soaked first meeting Jan. 16 at Memorial Stadium, it drizzled hard for about 15 minutes in the second half.
It was the third straight VVAL tie for the Crushers (6-6-7, 2-5-5 VVAL), who had five ties and three losses after blanking Napa 2-0 in a Jan. 9 Big Game. A Vintage win would have been a nice birthday present for Crushers head coach Miguel Ayala, who turned 37 on Monday, but he said he still got a nice effort from his young team.
“No, I’m not disappointed,” he said. “Justin’s a good squad, and my girls competed all year. They just had trouble scoring at the end of the season. But this was an entertaining game and the last game of the year, possibly, so we’ll take it.”
The fifth-place Crushers might sneak into the North Coast Section playoffs.
“We’ll petition for the playoffs and see what happens. You never know if you don’t try,” Ayala said. “My first year here, we lost on a coin toss.”
Vintage’s Mary Deeik, another dangerous scorer, said thinking it was the Crushers’ last game made them try harder.
“We tried to be fired up, work really hard and fight to the end,” the sophomore said. “Most of us thought this was our last game, but I’m really excited to know if we’re going to the playoffs. I hope we do, because we’ve worked hard.”
Sixth-place Justin-Siena (2-11-3, 2-7-3 VVAL), meanwhile, was already looking toward next season under third-year Justin-Siena head coach Eric Branagan-Franco.
“It was pretty aggressive and a well-fought game all the way through, so overall I’m very happy with the girls,” said Branagan-Franco, whose team doubled its combined win total of the previous two seasons. “Coming into the VVAL, everybody probably thought we were going to be one of the weaker squads in league and we’ve kinda proven to ourselves that we’re not one of those teams, that we can compete.
“This was a great year for us in our progression in continuing to grow as a whole. But I’m deeply saddened because we’re going to lose six seniors that were part of the core when I came in and started three years ago. It’s been amazing to see their growth and just knowing that they’re going to become unbelievable women in their futures.”
He said Salvestrin scored “13 or 15” goals this season and likes her unselfish play.
“She’s extremely fast and very talented, but there’s still plenty for her to learn,” he said. “She’s on the right path for a very bright future, there’s no doubt about that. She will continue to work extremely hard, whether it’s with Santa Rosa United or with Justin, but of course we’re going to try to push her to what she wants to achieve.”
Ayala coached Salvestrin, who came into high school with eight years of club soccer experience, on a Napa United team before she moved over to Santa Rosa United.
“I know Tessa pretty well. She’s a beast,” Ayala said. “We learned our lesson after she scored two goals against us the first time around, so we paid more attention to her this time.”
The Braves seemed to do that with Hernandez, as well, though she’s had some bad luck all season.
“Irais has hit the post a lot this year. She did it Friday against Sonoma Valley (in a 1-1 tie), too, so she could have made the difference then as well,” Ayala said. “She’s gotta try something different.”
Like in the Super Bowl the day before, defense reigned more than rain.
Ayala was particularly pleased with the defense of center backs Meredith Cuevas and Chase DeBow, whom he said “have been rock-solid back there,” and mid-season JV pullup Neilani Newberry. “She’s only a sophomore, but she scored against Napa and had another great game today being productive and hustling. That’s why she’s on the team, because she brings that extra gear.”
Salvestrin was asked how she was able to score nearly every goal for the Braves in just her first high school season.
“It didn’t really come easy. It took teamwork,” she said. “I started playing when I was 3 or 4 and I’ve definitely progressed over the years. But I can’t take all the credit because it takes a team, and we had a good team. I’ve been working on my speed for a long time. It helps to have long legs. The header goal I had this year was my favorite, but I mainly score with my feet because it’s easier to put in and easier to aim with.”
Salvestrin said Vintage defended her better the second time, but that a lot of teams have done that.
“I scored most of my goals in the beginning of the season because the teams hadn’t faced me yet and didn’t really know how to defend me,” she said. “The next time, they double-teamed me and it was harder to get around them.”
She said she’ll miss her senior teammates – Adilene Padilla Gonzalez, Adrianna Delgadillo and captains Isabella Galambos, Lauren Flaherty, Caroline Melancon and Mikaela Zeiter.
“Especially since they made up most of our back line,” she said. “It’s going to be tough replacing them.”
Branagan-Franco said Flaherty, Galambos and Zeiter played like a “wall” in back and that midfielder Melancon also played well defensively this season.
“We play a very (offensively) aggressive style of play, so it opens up our back line, but I can’t say enough about those three seniors, and (junior goalkeeper) Sophia Van Duzer. They’ve been unbelievable.”
Vintage JV 4, Justin-Siena 0
Pia Menzel and Bianca Avalos scored to give the Crushers (9-2-1 VVAL) a 2-0 halftime lead. Menzel scored in the second half on a cross that was deflected to her.
Isabella Lavarias added her first goal of the season.
“She’s been a role player for us coming off the bench, but she was in the right spot and followed up the shot, so it’s about all you can ask for,” Vintage JV coach Andrew Engel said.