Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Isabella Bascara, left, and Alexis Prieto battle for a loose ball in Tuesday's 2-2 draw.
If we’re keeping it real, no soccer team loves a draw.
But if you’re the Burlingame girls, right about now, you’re really liking the one you just earned.
The Panthers, missing two of their starters and with another all bandaged up, rallied twice from one-goal deficits to draw with the reigning PAL Bay Division champion Woodside Wildcats 2-2 in the Bay Division opener for both teams Tuesday.
With a little more than eight minutes left in the game, Alexis Prieto’s all-out hustle play and pinpoint finish equalized it for the Panthers.
“Woodside is so good. And they’re so, so talented,” said Burlingame head coach Philip DeRosa. “It’s funny because in the [postgame] meeting there, our assistant coach (Steve Freitas) said he’s been with us for two championship years, but he never thought a tie could feel this good — only because they’re a really loaded team and given the circumstances we had during the game.”
The postgame jubilation from the Panthers gave the Wildcats a dose of what to expect this season as they try to defend their Peninsula Athletic League title. The reality is, because they’re above and beyond the most talented team in the league, the usual target most squads carry as reigning champion is much bigger for them — a positive result against Woodside right now is gold for any of the teams in the PAL.
“They deserved to win,” said Woodside head coach Jose Navarrete. “They played hard. They hung in there and took whatever we threw at them — which wasn’t a whole lot tonight. But this is what our team needs. There’s something missing from this team. We are not good enough to not play hard. If we would have played as hard as Burlingame, we would have come away with a victory. But they played harder than we did.”
Harder, and a bit hungrier if you ask Navarrete. It showed in the second half when the Panthers took advantage of the only two really clear looks at the Woodside net. To Burlingame’s credit, the Panthers really worked for those chances and executed them with great precision.
Woodside struck first after knocking on the door several times in the first half. Jillienne Aguilera broke the scoreless draw with less than four minutes left in the period after a ball was floated from the right side into the Burlingame penalty box. After a bit of commotion, it landed comfortably on her right foot and the sophomore finished to give Woodside a 1-0 lead.
But Burlingame responded less than a minute into the second half — perhaps catching the Wildcats napping a bit. Kelsey Andrews made a tough turn to the inside some 17 yards out and was rewarded with a bit of daylight. She wasted little time in shooting low and to the keeper’s right to make it 1-1.
Fourteen minutes later, it looked like Woodside found the extra strike it needed to settle things. Isabella Bascara turned a great scramble in the Burlingame box into a goal after another freshman, Alex Augulis, set everything up with some great individual skill and pressure.
Despite the goal, Woodside wasn’t getting as many looks on goal as they were in the first half.
“We tightened up defensively,” DeRosa said. “We really stress defense. And that was the key. In fact, I was extremely dissapointed that we gave up those goals. They pounded them in. And we know how talented they are. They’re fast, they’re quick, they’re deadly. My girls executed today and I couldn’t be happier for them.”
Prieto turned out to be the DeRosa’s biggest source of happiness on Tuesday. No. 16 won a 50-50 ball deep in Woodside territory. She then proceeded to manuever around a pair of Wildcat defenders — the second of those jukes freed her up to take a shot. Prieto didn’t miss and tied the game 2-2.
“That’s my biggest concern right now,” Navarrete said of his team, talking specifically about their tenacity. “This team is by far more talented than last year’s but not as passionate, not as hungry. It’s a cause of concern. It’s going to take a little more effort.”
“Woodside versus Burlingame is usually kick-ass one way or another,” DeRosa said. “But, I thought [it was] a good game.”
The Wildcats remain unbeaten at 5-0-2. They have not dropped a PAL decision since Menlo-Atherton beat them in February of 2012.
Burlingame is now 1-3-1.