Carlsbad's Caroline Muoio (left) and El Camino's Morgan Liggan battle for the ball.
CARLSBAD It has been nearly 11 months since Carlsbad High captured the Division I girls soccer title — the program’s first CIF San Diego Section crown in any division — and at long last it appears that the Lancers are finally coming together for a bid to repeat.
Not that anyone within the program worried about Carlsbad’s slow start, but early on outsiders might have wondered whether the Lancers were a one-hit wonder.
“I think we’ve started to click as a team and started to figure out how we play as individuals,” senior midfielder Toni Duggan said.
“We weren’t losing earlier in the season — we were tying, but that was frustrating. I think because we were getting the ties, we knew we had some potential to work on. We have a lot of young players on this team, and we knew that tactically and technically we had to work really hard. Last year, it came easier to us because we had a lot of older players.”
Carlsbad, which lost four all-league players from last year’s championship squad to graduation, slogged through the nonleague portion of its schedule, posting a 3-2-5 record. As of this week, the Lancers had yet to crack the top 10 in U-T San Diego’s girls soccer poll.
Something seemed to click in early January, though. The team had a gap of nearly three weeks on its game schedule, and players came back from their holiday break refreshed and ready to tackle the new season. Duggan said the younger players finally started to absorb the lessons passed down from the upperclassmen, and since the start of Avocado West League play, the Lancers have been like a different team.
By beating El Camino 5-1 at home Tuesday, Carlsbad improved to 5-0 at the halfway mark of its league season.
Perhaps more impressively, the Lancers have scored 24 goals in those five games and have allowed just five. In 10 nonleague games, they scored just 16 times.
“Before the Christmas break, we were creating (scoring opportunities), but the ball wasn’t falling in the back of the net,” Carlsbad coach Carl Higham said.
“Since coming back, we seem to be finding a way to get the ball in there. Our luck seems to be improving and we seem to be scoring goals. We’re creating a lot of opportunities and not giving a lot up — we’ve got great momentum.”
Carlsbad dominated possession and made the most of its chances against El Camino. The Lancers scored in the second minute when Hannah Miller knocked in a Duggan corner kick, and really put the pressure on the Wildcats with a fifth-minute goal off the foot of Shelby Lee.
Keira Dagy also scored in the first half, and Duggan and Cindy Garcia tallied during the second half. The game was well in hand by that point, but with only three weeks before the playoffs begin, the Lancers’ second-half effort was less about adding insurance goals than it was about rounding into form for a deep run in the Division I playoffs.
“They’ve got their tails up at the moment, and they’re full of confidence,” Higham said.
“They had a taste of it last year, so maybe that’s helping.”