If Camryn Guttierez were a little shorter, Cardinal Gibbons and Leesville Road might still be playing soccer right now.
Deadlocked at zero midway through the second half, neither team could crack the code of the opposing defense. Finally, at the 20:47 mark, Guttierez scored on a header, just barely off her crown, and the Crusaders (9-3) defeated the Pride 1-0.
“We had a free kick and Allison Meyer, she served it up beautifully,” Guttierez said. “It skimmed the top of my head and went over the goalie.”
Just like Cardinal Gibbons drew it up. Literally.
At halftime, Michele Miller, head coach of the Crusaders, and Guttierez had a one-on-one conference on the field while the rest of the team sat on the sideline preparing for the start of the second half. During that impromptu meeting, the duo talked strategy, and Miller thought of a way to finally break the scoring drought.
She figured at some point her team would get a chance to run a set play from the corner. When the opportunity presented itself, Meyer and Guttierez executed it perfectly.
“We were just talking about when she goes in, what you’re going to do,” Miller said. “Allison takes a lot of our set pieces, so we were just asking her to drive it to the back post.”
The wind hung the ball up just enough for Guttierez to put herself in perfect position for the header. That single goal put the pressure on the Pride the rest of the way, and Gibbons would keep them out of the net.
Leesvilles’ best chance to get on the board came early in the second half when Nevada Mareno broke away and took a shot that bounced off the right pole. The ball ricocheted back to Mareno, who took another shot, once again coming up empty.
Cardinal Gibbons, playing short handed because of spring break, had several shot attempts in the first half – at least five – but couldn’t get one to go in. Miller felt once it did, the pressure was off and her team played more relaxed.
“We believed at that point that we could win the game,” Miller said. “Until you see the ball go in, it’s tough. It takes eight or nine good shots to get one in. We just told them to keep working hard and putting pressure on their backs. They (Leesville Road) battled us for every loose ball, so we got a chance on a set piece. It’s something we practice a lot, so we just reacted to it first and knocked it in. It was a great ball.”
With 20 minutes still showing on the clock, the Crusaders’ strategy the remainder of the way was to hold the ball as long as they could, letting precious seconds tick away.
“We only had one substitute,” Miller said. “We really didn’t have the depth that we are used to, so we just wanted to play calm and keep the ball, keep the game stretched out and make them chase us.”
As it turned out, the header by Guttierez was all that Cardinal Gibbons needed to get the win.
“It was what we needed,” the sophomore said. “Another one would have been great, but one was perfect.”