Scotts Valley High girls’ soccer team is quietly making its presence felt within the league and slowly becoming a squad that opponents are carefully scouting before taking the pitch.
Falcons senior striker Naiya Samios scored twice, and Lia Lock and Jordan Ericson each had one goal in Tuesday night’s 4-0 win over Soquel High in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League action.
Junior goalkeeper Paige Bariteau had 13 saves in the box for Scotts Valley, which improved to 2-2-2 in league play.
The Falcons continue to roll following a strong week in league play, including a 2-0 win and a 1-1 draw against SCCAL powerhouse Santa Cruz on Jan. 19 and 21, respectively.
“I think we all think it’s a huge deal,” Samios said. “That was the most excited we’ve been in a long time.”
Scotts Valley coach Taylor Raymond said last week’s victory over the Cardinals gave her chills.
“I felt like they really improved their confidence level and they didn’t get defeated,” she said.
Why was it such a big deal? The Falcons lost to Santa Cruz twice last season by a combined score of 17-0, including a 10-0 shoutout loss in the teams’ first meeting.
Samios was a freshman the last time Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz played to a tie, which was a 1-1 draw in the 2019-20 season.
Prior to that, it had been a little more than seven years since the Falcons beat the Cardinals after a 2-0 win in SCCAL play in the 2015-16 season.
In last week’s win, Samios felt like they were composed and controlled most of the possession throughout the first half, which was encouraging for them.
During the halftime break, the Falcons talked about finishing the shots. Samios took a corner kick late in the second half and it nearly went in for the score, but the ball ended up back to her and she zipped it to the side net past Santa Cruz’s goalkeeper for the match’s first score.
“It felt amazing, especially being the first goal of the game after a long, tiring game,” she said.
Samios was credited with an assist on the second goal scored by Lauren Bariteau that gave Scotts Valley a two-goal cushion. They continued to push because Samios knew how quickly a game can switch around.
In the second meeting, the Falcons took the lead, but the Cardinals managed to tie the score for a 1-1 draw. Samios said they had several opportunities and couldn’t quite finish it, but still felt like they proved themselves as contenders in the league.
Prior to league play, Scotts Valley was getting into a groove following a 2-0 win over North Salinas and a scoreless draw against Watsonville. Then they had Jan. 10’s SCCAL opener at San Lorenzo Valley High postponed due to the rainstorms.
The Falcons were able to kick off league play just two days later. It didn’t go as planned following a 3-1 loss to Soquel High and scoreless draw against Harbor on Jan. 13.
Samios and company suffered a 2-0 loss to Aptos on Jan. 17, yet they followed up with back-to-back strong performances against Santa Cruz and a shutout win over Soquel on Tuesday night.
Samios said they got in the mindset of training at the same level as most of the top teams in the league and in the Central Coast Section.
“I think we’ve learned how to play together, get the ball up, and it’s kind of surprising how well we were playing together even after two weeks of just training,” she said.
Samios said once the goals started producing, then the trust gradually started developing and now the end results are turning into victories.
“I think we started pushing each other knowing that we are a pretty solid team with a solid defense, midfield and offense to carry us,” she said. “I’m super excited to play the [league] teams again.”
Raymond can see the dedication and commitment the players are putting into the season. The practice sessions are typically extended because they want to continue to improve.
“They’ve been really good about communicating with each other and letting each other know what we can be doing better,” Raymond said. “That’s something that really helps the coaches out.”
Raymond moved Samios from the midfield to up top at the forward position after the Falcons switched their formation to a 4-3-3. It will allow the standout striker to utilize her ball control skills and set up the open shot.
“She wants that goal and is so hungry for that goal,” Raymond said. “Having her up there is honestly essential. Having her not up there, you can notice a difference.”
Raymond said coaches always preach to players not to be selfish with the ball and make the extra pass if they can, yet that’s not the case at Scotts Valley.
“Be selfish, this is the one time you can be selfish,” she said. “Get up there, turn and shoot, and when we do we get those awesome goals that we did against Santa Cruz.”
Having the win against Santa Cruz early in the season gives Scotts Valley a ton of confidence, and now it’s the talking point of wanting to play the same way throughout the season.
“I just want to see them continue their confidence levels, I want to see them continue to work together and grow as a team,” Raymond said.
Scotts Valley (4-5-4, 2-2-2) will play at San Lorenzo Valley (1-8-2, 0-4-1) on Saturday at noon.