One of the challenges when facing Enochs High's girls soccer team is trying to gauge the Eagles' speed in the open field, particularly if Kayla Davis is chasing a ball.
Lodi's defense thought they had the senior striker under control in the second half, before she pulled away from a defender to attack the goal.
"Because of my quickness, I always look to make a run on the ball, because I can usually run away from my defender," Davis said. "It allows me to play more aggressively."
That was crucial Thursday, as Davis' speed produced the winning goal early in the second half as Enochs beat Lodi 2-1 to open the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
Lodi (14-5-5) tied the match late in the first half on Amie Gillett's goal, and the two teams battled back and forth in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
The Flames looked to have Davis hemmed in, one defender beside her and another between her and the middle of the field. A long pass bounced upfield, though, and in an instant Davis left her defender behind and beat the other.
A few dribbles later, Davis drilled it past goalie Halle Ortiz for a 2-1 lead. It was Davis' 14th goal; she picked up her 11th assist in the first half on a goal by Marissa Soria.
Davis' speed was troubling for the Flames, whose lack of speed on the back line forces them to rely on tactical play.
Enochs realized that, and it kept bringing the ball up the sideline to stretch Lodi's trio of defenders across the field and create gaps in the middle.
"We kept pushing it outside because we wanted their defenders to shift to that side as the ball arrived," Davis said. "That left openings for crossing passes, or we could come from the outside and attack."
Enochs' speed led to two additional opportunities, but it failed to get a goal on either.
One was a hard shot that ricocheted off the right post and rolled across the face of the goal, but no Eagles charged to the goal to knock the ball in.
The other was a breakaway by Davis midway through the second half, but her hard shot hit Lodi goalie Halle Ortiz in the chest — and she held it.
That kept the Flames within a goal, which kept the emotion until the final whistle.
All Lodi was needed was another play similar to Gillett's.She raced in from the right side and positioned herself in front of her passive defender.
She took a pass from Shelby Brendel and, with her defender unwilling to fight for the ball, booted it into the lower left corner for her 16th goal.
"I ran toward the middle as I saw the ball coming down, then it was just turning to see which side the goalie was going to defend," Gillett said. "I saw her defending the right, so I took advantage of that."
Enochs escaped a near disaster before Davis' decisive goal, as the Flames put a ball in the back of the net off of a rebound in front of the goal.
It was whistled off, though, as Lodi was ruled offsides. It was an odd call, as Enochs' goalie had been the one to redirect the ball to the player.
That was Lodi's best opportunity in the second half, as Enochs sweeper Jessica Nila and her fullbacks were often able to disrupt the Flames' attack before it got to the box.
The Eagles, who have back-to-back Modesto Metro Conference titles despite starting a varsity program just three years ago, will play Tuesday.
They will travel to Turlock (17-0-2) or host Tokay (12-4-2), depending who wins today's playoff opener at the Turlock Regional Sports Complex.