Varsity women’s soccer stuns in season-opening win against Antioch

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Ananya Mukherjee

Dougherty and Antioch fight for possession while their teammates cheer them on.

Dougherty Valley’s varsity women’s soccer team dominated their season-opening home game with a 7-0 win against Antioch High School on Nov. 29.

The 2022-23 team is full of new faces after losing 13 graduating seniors in the previous season. Despite this loss, Coach Kasey Addiego believes that the new team will benefit from a “fresh start.” Communication, team spirit and work ethic are the driving forces needed for the Wildcats to play a successful season.

“We have a great young squad. They’ve been eager to learn and pay attention so it’s promising,” Addiego said.

The air was buzzing as the game began. Dougherty assumed control over the ball almost immediately as sophomore striker Kara Mullen took it up the field. A series of deft passes between senior captain Marlena Bevilacqua and junior attacking midfielder Miri O’Donnell followed, which ultimately resulted in a narrowly missed attempt at the goal. 

The ball stayed in Dougherty’s possession as the Wildcats attempted multiple shots at the goal, before O’Donnell scored the first goal of the game: a solid kick from the center of the field in the fifth minute. Her teammates crowded around her and rejoiced in celebration of the season-opening goal.

The ball remained in Antioch’s half for the next 15 minutes. O’Donnell navigated through the field like she had known it forever, slipping in and out of the Panthers’ defense and performing a swift step-over to pass the ball over to Mullen, who guided the home team’s second goal into the net. The Wildcats continued to dominate the playing field with a strong goal by sophomore right wing Francesca Bevilacqua, which found its place in the back of the net. Minutes later, O’Donnell made a soaring kick to score another goal for Dougherty, assisted by a series of back-and-forth headers by the home team. Sophomore right wing Kayla Mawani followed up by scoring Dougherty’s final goal of the first half, raising the score to 5-0 just before the blowing of the whistle signaled halftime. 

“Scoring a goal in our first game, and as a Sophomore, gave me more confidence,” Mawani said.

Dougherty started off strong in the second half with a spiraling kick by Mullen that made its way into the top right corner of the opponent’s net. Senior defensive midfielder Naimah Yadav took control of the ball and dribbled through a sea of Antioch defenders and bypassed the Panthers’ keeper to attempt a long shot at the goal. The keeper suffered a leg injury trying to block the shot and was unable to continue playing, but both teams cheered in support as she walked off the field. 

The game restarted a few minutes later. Mawani dribbled the ball up to the 50 yard line before passing it to teammate Francesca Bevilacqua. The right wing powered through the field, spinning on her heels to edge the ball past the Panthers’ defense and score a high shot, Dougherty’s seventh and final goal of the game.

“It helps that we’ve been working on overlapping each other, communicating and passing the ball more,” Marlena Bevilacqua said.

Dougherty assumed a defensive play in the last few minutes instead of pressing their advantage. The Panthers made a few unsuccessful last-minute attempts to score, but the final score was 7-0, in Dougherty’s favor.

The Wildcats jogged off the field and celebrated their victory. Their efforts had brought around a strong end to the season-opening game and a hopeful beginning to the rest of the season. 

“I think we have a really good chance this year, and if we continue to work [together], we can do great things. This is just the beginning and we have a lot more to show,” Marlena Bevilacqua said.

Dougherty won their second non-league home game against Bullard on Dec. 3. The team will play their first away game against Deer Valley on Dec. 6.