LAUREL – For Claudia Garcia, a striker’s mentality is to try everything once just to see if it will lead to positive results.
With her team up 1-0, the senior rushed into the penalty box, outran her defender and, without looking at the net, stuck out her right foot and volleyed a pass into the net for the goal. The bilingual star then hugged her teammates in celebration of a play created off pure instinct.
“I always try to pull off tricks or stuff like that when I play,” Garcia said. “When I try, they almost always turn into goals or bigger plays for my team.”
Garcia’s speed and willingness to shoot overpowered the Spartans’ defense. She finished with five total goals, completing her hat-trick by halftime. That feat, combined with a seven-save shutout by sophomore goalkeeper Adriana Flores, let the Northwestern girls’ soccer team crush Laurel, 5-0, on Sept. 29.
Four of Garcia’s goals were off speedy counterattacks that began off a turnover around midfield. Midfielders Jenny Flores (two assists) and freshman Samantha Dominguez (one assist) facilitated the turnovers and recalibrated the Lady Wildcats’ offense to find an open Garcia cutting to the goal. They quickly delivered slashing passes through the heart of the Laurel defense. Then the Wildcat striker accelerated past the physically-imposing Laurel backline, leaving her with one-on-one opportunities against the goalkeeper.
First-year Head Coach Lee Campbell said he was pleased to see Garcia shine so many times during one game.
“Claudia is an outstanding forward,” Campbell said. “She’s the best forward I’ve ever had the pleasure working with. She changes the dynamics of a game and she’s just wonderful.”
“She’s been playing for a long time, so it is a normal thing,” midfielder Marissa Bee said. “She scores about every single game so it wasn’t really a surprise.”
Northwestern (3-2) relied on the counterattack style with hints of possession, leaving its opponents disoriented. Nine of the Wildcats’ final 14 shots were on target. Defensively, senior and two-sport athlete Heidi Chicas helped control the backline, stopping the Lady Spartans from creating more scoring opportunities.
With less than five minutes to go in the match, Garcia broke away with the ball yet again, storming past a Laurel defender before laying off a soft right-footed shot for her fifth goal to cap off her explosive offensive day.
Northwestern outscored its opponents 17-0 for the week (they dominated in a 12-0 victory over Suitland on Sept. 22).
For Laurel (2-2), the score was not reflective of its play, as its wing attack, led by sophomore Tyenje Onyejekwe, troubled Northwestern’s defense throughout the match. Onyejekwe worked with captain Jasmine Boykin and sophomore America Proctor, and the three-headed attack supplied the majority of the Spartans’ eight shots, including a shot that spanked the post before halftime.
“(Northwestern) is as good as any team out there,” Laurel Head Coach Chris Wenchel said. “But we need to have the confidence to control the ball more because we let Northwestern control it instead of taking control.”
For the first time this season, Northwestern won back-to-back games and looks to push ahead in preparation of the state playoffs. With four straight road games coming up, including matches with rival High Point and powerhouse Eleanor Roosevelt, the Wildcats want to carry the momentum forward to improve their playoff positioning in the county standings.
“One of the areas of improvement is team defense,” Campbell said. “We need to be a little bit more organized in the back. We do very well against some teams, but against tougher teams we are going to have to be more organized if we are going to beat them.”