Women's Soccer rides first half surge to beat UC Santa Cruz

Women's Soccer rides first half surge to beat UC Santa Cruz

LA VERNE, Calif. — Cambria Smith scored her first collegiate goal on a screamer from 30 yards out lift the University of La Verne women's soccer team to a 3-1 win over UC Santa Cruz on Friday at Ortmayer Stadium.

Scoring chances are few and far between for Smith, who usually plays left back for the Leopards. But with the game tied at 1-1 in the first half, Smith collected a sloppy clearance on the left wing, saw the goalkeeper playing a step too far off the line and blasted one into net just below the cross bar for the game winner in the 18th minute.

"I didn't see it coming," La Verne head coach Lauryn Pehanich said. "I saw her wind up, I saw the goalkeeper out of position and she had a great strike and she's obviously very happy with it, as are we."

It was a good bounce-back performance for the Leopards after dropping their season opener to Vanguard on Tuesday.  The Leopards pressed high from the start and dominated the run of play in the first half. Jessica Hernandez found the back of the net for the first time this season in the 16th minute to give the Leopards an early lead and La Verne outshot UC Santa Cruz, 9-2, in the first half.

Then in the closing seconds of the first half, Tatiana Raygoza scored a backbreaking third goal to essentially put the game out of the reach of the Banana Slugs. Kelsea Varner made a perfect tackle deep in the attacking zone to steal the ball, ran down the right wing and delivered a low cross, which Raygoza was able to finish with a sliding kick.

The Banana Slugs got one back in the 52nd minute on a Megan Carey goal from just outside the box as the Leopards came out of the break more conservatively. But the Leopards' back line stood tall and came up with big plays when needed preserve the score line.

"We came out of the gates sticking to the plan tactics-wise and in terms of intensity," Pehanich said. "But Santa Cruz picked up their pace in the second half and we didn't hang with them. We're very happy with the result but to be able to achieve our goals this year, we need to play more consistently."

Varner and Alexa Smith were both very active on the wings, combining for six shots and creating chances consistently. Heather Seman made two saves in net.

The Leopards and the Banana Slugs will square off again next Friday when La Verne travels up north. The kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.