Lee Shaw rolled the dice.
With winds gusting at over 20 miles per hour at Veterans Stadium on Monday afternoon, the Golden Valley High girls soccer coach wanted them at his team’s back to open the game.
Knowing how difficult it would be for the defensive team to get the ball out of its own end, Shaw hoped to jump out to a big lead and then bunker down in the second half.
The plan never materialized as the Cougars could only produce one goal in the opening half. Atwater did them one better with a two-goal outburst in a six-minute span in the second half to pull out a big 2-1 road victory.
“There’s no doubt this is our biggest win to date with where we are in the standings,” Atwater coach Steve Menezes said. “We felt very good being down just one at halftime.
“I thought we did a good job defensively keeping them contained and not allowing a lot of shots from distance.
“We were able to take advantage of the win in the second half and get a couple goals.”
With the wind adding some extra heat to every ball, the instructions from both coaches was to shoot early and often.
The Falcons (8-5-6, 2-3-3 Central California Conference) executed the game plan a little better.
The Cougars (9-5-2, 5-3 CCC) outshot Atwater 7-4 in the opening half, but most of those came from inside the box.
One of the few times GV attempted a shot from distance, it led to the game’s first goal.
Alexis Ramirez had a deflection land at her feet in the 29th minute. The junior cut in towards goal and fired a low blast from about 20 yards out that scooted under a diving Valeria Perez (four saves).
That would be it for the GV offense, however.
“We needed to take shots in the wind, and we just didn’t do it enough,” GV coach Lee Shaw said. “It definitely wasn’t the goal total we were looking for.
“I thought it would take at least four goals to win on a day like this. Atwater hasn’t given up many goals on the season, and they did a good job not letting us get shots off.”
The Falcons’ fortunes changed just eight minutes into the second half with a little bit of bad luck for the Cougars.
An Atwater cross took a big bounce in the Golden Valley 18-yard box and struck a defender in the arm for a penalty kick.
GV’s Mariah Hermosillo (five saves) got a hand on Brianna Perez’s penalty effort, but couldn’t keep the equalizer out.
Atwater went up for good six minutes later.
Perez got things going again, feeding a ball in to Nancy Fuentes from the left wing. Fuentes took a couple of touches towards goal and then blasted a shot from about 22 yards out.
The shot had enough power and placement to probably score on a normal day, but with the wind behind it, Hermosillo had no chance of stopping it.
“We were very positive at halftime having just given up one goal,” Perez said. “We felt like we would finish when we got the opportunities.
“Getting the early goal (in the second half) was big. It settled us down and gave us the confidence to get the win.”
Golden Valley did its best to fight through the wind on the ground and equalize, but could only produce one shot on frame in the final 40 minutes to drop its second straight conference game.
Turlock 2, Merced 1
Aubrey Glidden’s penalty kick in the 78th minute gave Turlock its second straight conference win and fourth in its last five games.
It was a tough result for Merced (7-7-1, 3-5 CCC) which had battled back to tie the game at 1-1 with a first-half injury-time goal on a Nicole Salm free kick.