There’s a huge sense of confidence coming from within the Scotts Valley High girls’ soccer team as the regular season nearly comes to an end.
In a frantic finish until the final whistle, junior Dillon Fiorita scored a pair of late goals for the Falcons as they fell to the Mariners, 3-2, in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League action on Jan. 25. Skyler Defour and Jordan Ericson each were credited with one assist.
“I’m just excited to see how far we’ve come since the beginning of the season and I can’t do it without my teammates with those beautiful passes,” Fiorita said.
Despite the loss, it’s been a successful 2023-24 campaign for Scotts Valley (7-5-1, 4-2) which had won four straight SCCAL games prior to Thursday night’s match against the Mariners.
The Falcons outscored their opponents 9-0 during the win streak. They also became the first team to score on Aptos in league play this season.
Fiorita credits the success mainly because her teammates dedicate themselves to showing up for practice to improve on the little things, including first touches and playing as a single unit.
Fiorita said the newer players are talented, yet they haven’t always had the chance to practice together during club season. It makes matches against a powerhouse team such as Aptos a bit more challenging.
“I think we definitely played very intensely at the end and played together very well,” she said. “We just need to figure out how to get in moments like that a little bit more.”
Scotts Valley head coach Taylor Raymond—the reigning SCCAL’s Coach of the Year—has been pushing the players to keep the same high intensity throughout the game and not just in the final five minutes.
“They started to understand at halftime that we kind of gotta kick it into gear if we even want to have any chance at this,” said Raymond about last week’s match against Aptos.
Defour and Ericson, who play with Fiorita on the Santa Cruz Jaws youth soccer club during the offseason, are a pair of big-time returners for the Falcons.
Raymond said having a majority of the players competing on club teams during the offseason has helped the program grow as of lately.
“It makes me really happy that they all play club and really enjoy the sport that much,” she said.
Scotts Valley finished with a 6-6-5 overall record following their 2022-23 campaign. They placed tied for third alongside Soquel with a 4-3-3 record in SCCAL play, missing the Central Coast Section playoffs.
They’re also missing some essential players who graduated such as Naiya Samios—the league’s reigning Most Outstanding Attacker.
Other huge contributors include seniors Annie Gowing and the Bariteau twins—Paige and Lauren; and junior Lia Lock.
Raymond made it clear to the veteran leaders that they are now the role models who will be looked up to for advice.
“I told them you guys are people that everybody looks up to, even other seniors and juniors,” she said.
Scotts Valley is also loaded with an experienced group of underclassmen in sophomores Ella Ireland, Mercedes Lopez and Isabella Morairty.
Aptos coach Gina Castañeda noted that Scotts Valley’s core of center backs are strong, most notably Lock and Ireland.
“They never gave up, that I give to them,” Castañeda said. “They played until the end of the whistle. I think for us, we got complacent in the last eight minutes of the game. We didn’t take it as seriously as we should have taken.”
Lock has been dealing with a back injury that has forced her to sit out most of the season. Her absence on the pitch is highly noticeable.
“[Lock] holds down the center midfield and her ball control is just out of this world,” Raymond said. “She’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen.”
The newcomers include sophomores Jazzy Phillips, Hayden Smith and freshmen Campbell Flores, Lauren Lima and Ericson’s younger sister, Taylor—who is slowly establishing herself as a threat on the pitch and has a team-best nine goals for the Falcons this season.
Taylor Ericson primarily plays the point center forward but she can be thrown just about anywhere on the front line.
“[Ericson’s] just somebody who really understands the game and there’s so much potential there. We saw it from tryouts until now,” Raymond said.
Scotts Valley has four games remaining in the regular season. They’ll start with a league battle at Harbor High on Monday at 7pm, followed by a home game against Santa Cruz on Thursday at 3:30pm.
Raymond said the team camaraderie simply comes from players bonding outside of practice and genuinely caring for each other.
Fiorita said the younger players are starting to fit into the system well and she believes they’re all just about on the same page.
“No team is ever gonna be perfect,” she said. “Since the beginning of the season, we’ve definitely improved a lot. We still have our moments, as everyone does, but I think it’s great how far we’ve come since the beginning where it was a little iffy.”
Scotts Valley will attempt to close the SCCAL season on a high note starting with a home game against San Lorenzo Valley on Feb. 6 at 3:30pm, followed by the season finale at Soquel High on Feb. 8 at 7pm.