COOS BAY — The powerful wind Saturday seemed destined to render the Southwestern Oregon Community College women’s soccer home opener against Everett a draw, pushing the Lakers out of their game and doing the same to the Trojans.
It ended up a draw, but only after late goals by both SWOCC and the Trojans, the latter assisted by the gusting wind, resulted in a 1-1 score.
“I was very happy with the second half and how we played,” first-year Lakers coach Gina Ramirez said. “I thought we changed the game and created some more dangerous opportunities than we did in the first half.”
Paige Boyce’s chip shot in the box over Emma Allison in the 82nd minute appeared give the Lakers a late-arriving win after the match-long deadlock.
In the first half, SWOCC played with the wind at its back, which can lure teams into sending long balls into the tailwind for seemingly easy goals. But it’s easier said than done and too big a temptation, and the Lakers fell into that trap for the initial 45 minutes.
“In the first half we got excited to have the wind a bit and just at halftime we stressed having composure and just trying to connect passes and get forward,” Ramirez said.
One strength the entire match for the Lakers was defense.
Anchored by freshman goalkeeper Erica Alfred, who finished the game with five saves, SWOCC withstood numerous Everett free kicks and chances in the box.
The nearest came in the 45th minute, right before halftime, when Lauren Dowdell spun on the ball through the back of the Laker defense, but couldn’t beat Alfred with her shot.
It kept the Lakers in the game when their offense was less than effective.
“I’ve had several players step up and take on that role no questions asked,” Ramirez said. “So very proud of the back line today.”
As the second half wore on, SWOCC started to find more offensive success playing into the wind.
Without that juicy temptation of a strong tailwind, SWOCC focused on its intended style: passing the ball up the field.
The SWOCC midfield started finding Emma Meyer up the left sideline with through balls, and Paige Boyce started getting shots at Allison.
Meyer finally got her goal in that 82nd minute, and SWOCC seemed to have eked out a win over the quality Trojans, but the relentless Everett offense kept coming.
In the 90th minute with the referee constantly consulting his watch, Mayu Naguite found herself all alone from about 30 yards out and noticed Alfred a few steps out from the goal. With the Everett men’s team imploring her to shoot, she lofted one into the wind and it drifted into the net.
The result isn’t ideal, as Ramirez noted, but it wasn’t disastrous as there was some unexpected upheaval in the program.
A month ago, Ramirez filled a suddenly vacant head coaching position and took over a program with short numbers.
In a way, Ramirez was fortunate despite becoming head coach a month before the official start of the season. Of the 17 players on roster, which is about 10 short of an ideal roster size, 12 are sophomores. Of the five freshmen, one is Lakers basketball player Lakota Robinson-Sanada, who noticed the small numbers and volunteered her services.
The already established experience and willingness to do anything and play any position eased the transition for Ramirez, who has already had to switch from her preferred 4-3-3 formation to a more conservative 4-4-2.
“They’re gonna give me everything they have,” Ramirez said. “I’m learning the more games we play too. How do I utilize the players that I have? My initial vision was a different formation, and we just didn’t have the players for that. So I’m adjusting as well as I get to know them as players and as people and learn what they can handle.”
The Lakers open NWAC South Region play at Portland this coming Saturday.