Cacabelos steps up for Merced

MERCED — Golden Valley coach Lee Shaw took a look at the sideline and thought he had a clear advantage. He wasn't alone.

Merced's top scorer was on the bench in jeans and a sweater. Tina Benson was turned into a spectator by her aching knee.

Benson's stand-in, junior Jessica Cacabelos, made sure Merced didn't need its star.

She was responsible for Merced's first two goals, and Taylor Yanez shut down GV forward Vanesa Vega in a 3-0 rout that kept the Bears (7-1-1, 4-0-1) a half-game behind Pitman in the Central California Conference.

Benson, who leads Merced with 11 goals, is scheduled for an MRI on the knee. Cacabelos shouldered the load, tormenting GV's defense with physical play, speed and finesse.

Her impact was immediate.

Dropping back near midfield to receive a ball, Cacabelos passed it to Stephanie Montes, racing downfield. Montes sped past GV sweeper Laurie O'Brien, finishing her run with a low shot past Jessica Chambers for a 1-0 lead just one minute into the match.

Cacabelos made it 2-0 in the 27th minute with an empty-net goal after she got behind the GV defense and juked Chambers.

Shaw didn't expect this kind of attack from Merced — not with Benson hobbled.

"(Benson's) a dribbler. She comes right at you. Defenders don't like players that dribble at them," Shaw said. "With her out of the game, we thought it would make it easier."

Abigail Nuno rounded out the scoring in the 41st minute, nudging a cross from Amanda Campos (two assists) over the goal line.

GV outshot Merced 10-8, but few worried goalie Stephanie Isenberg (six saves).