Tigers break through, beat Granite Bay in soccer semi

Roseville tallies three times in second half
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Putting together its most complete game in the most important contest to date, the Roseville High girls soccer team are back in the championship game. The Tigers, who lost in a penalty kick shootout at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II tournament title game a year ago, will have a chance to take that final step Saturday. That is because of the statement they made in a 3-0 semifinal win over Sierra Foothill League rival Granite Bay Wednesday night at Folsom High School. Unlike it has done in many games this season, Roseville was strong at the outset, and that made it a difficult night for the Grizzlies. The Tigers were in the Granite Bay half of the field for much of the night, and for the first 50 minutes, the Grizzlies’ defense was up to the task. Due to the relentless pressure, it seemed inevitable that Roseville would eventually break through, and it did. Three goals in a 20-minute stretch in the second half allowed the Tigers to put the game away. The contest was scoreless at intermission, largely due to the stellar play of the Granite Bay back line. Kayla Karlsson, Anna Richter, Morgan Geiger and Caresse Little managed to weather a furious storm of activity as they kept the Tigers from getting any good shots on goal. “I was very excited after the first half,” said Granite Bay coach Chris Roberts. “I thought we responded very well to their attacks and told the team that we needed to pick it up 10 percent and we would win the game. We did that pretty well the first five minutes of the second half.” Roseville’s defense was equally formidable, as it stayed aggressive and cleared away any Grizzly opportunities. Kelsey DeCarlo, Kayla Granley, Marissa Lopez and Allison Campbell were strong as usual in back for the Tigers. That group kept Granite Bay’s attackers and midfielders Monica Tingley and Christy Cooper from ever getting comfortable. “Once balls penetrated midfield my defensive unit was always in the right place,” said Roseville coach Pablo Gutierrez. “DeCarlo's poise and playmaking gives us confident. She hardly ever makes a mistake and knows when to clear or when to bring the ball down to start from the back.” With Roseville boasting its pair of dynamic offensive playmakers in freshman Paige Crouch and junior Amanda Ellsworth, the difference in the game turned out to be the play in the midfield. When the Tiger midfield plays well, this team is nearly impossible to beat, but when it does not compete as well, Roseville struggles to get into its offense. On this night, it was the Granite Bay midfield that struggled, particularly defensive transition, but the Roseville quartet was outstanding. Adriane Bates and Amanda Susbilla maintained control of the middle, and Gutierrez received an amazing effort from his outside mids. “Our defense was amazing all night,” Roberts said. “They kept us in the game during the first half but unfortunately we had some breakdowns defensively in the midfield. Hopefully we learned something tonight that will help us turn the page and get better next year.” Kayla Granucci, and when she was in there, Lauren Stafford, was physical and tough on one side, while Chanisse Hendrix used her speed and skill to change the game on the other. “I think from the beginning of the game my comfort level was very high, not necessarily because of my defense or offense but my midfield,” Gutierrez said. “Adriane Bates, Amanda Susbilla, Chanisse Hendrix and Kayla Granucci were playing at their highest level. Bates and Susbilla were key to stopping their playmaking.” Hendrix was right in the middle of things when Roseville finally found the back of the net. The freshman was on the receiving end of a pair of sensational passing combinations to score the first two Tiger goals. “Our team is one of those that has manage to play better in the second half,” Gutierrez said. I hope this continues to the last game. Hendrix has so much potential and confidence. She can throw, kick with both feet, and has amazing sprint. The key to our success is going to be to have midfield continue playing with the same intensity.” In the 51st minute, Ellsworth pried a ball loose from the Grizzly midfield and found Crouch in the center of the pitch. The freshman striker split the Granite Bay defense with a nice ball that arrived in perfect timing with Hendrix, who had broken free of the defense and made a run up the left side. She struck the left-footed shot with confidence and went to the far post to put Roseville up 1-0. “We were most worried about Paige coming into the game,” Roberts said. “As it turned out we were so focused on Paige that it opened the door for No. 20 (Hendrix) and she rose to the occasion.” The four minutes that followed were filled with a flurry of activity with Hendrix, Susbilla and Bates joining with the two forwards to put Granite Bay goalkeeper Keslie Cooper under intense and constant pressure. The stretch did not yield a second tally. The Grizzlies best scoring chances of the game came on set plays and game restarts, but they were all too few and far between. In the 58th minute, Karlsson’s free kick from about 40 yards out found the head of Erin Pellerin, but she nodded it over the top of the goal. The Tigers iced the game away with a pair of back-to-back goals in the 69th and 70th minutes. The first came as Ellsworth battled free of the Granite midfield defense at the center line and then raced up the left-hand side of the field. Her cross went in the direction of Crouch, who was in a crowd near the top of the 18-yard box. Crouch appeared to get a slight touch on the ball to poke it on to her teammate, but her presence largely served to draw the defense to the middle while Hendrix was now running the right side. Hendrix ran onto this ball and sent a rocket near post from 20 yards out to give the Tigers a 2-0 advantage. Less than one minute later, Roseville was back, with Ellsworth staring down the Granite Bay defenders. She gave the ball to Crouch and then ran through as her partner touched a perfectly placed wall pass into her path, and Ellsworth did not miss, setting the final margin from 10 yards out. “Ellsworth and Paige are connecting better each day,” Gutierrez said. “It is impressive the way we made our offensive plays.” The result was special for a Roseville team that has struggled to get over the top against its SFL nemesis, Granite Bay. The win also sets up a matchup with another league opponent in the section final, as Rocklin was a 1-0 winner in its semifinal Wednesday against Christian Brothers. “Credit to Roseville,” Roberts said. “They were the aggressors in the second half and they stepped to the ball better than we did. The fact is that Roseville is better at playing Roseville-style soccer than we are. We let ourselves get drawn into playing their game.” The finale will be played Saturday at Folsom High, with the time to be announced Thursday night.