Wildcats give Raiders all they could handle in 1-0 match

Late score keeps Rio No. 1
By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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With half her team nursing injuries, Whitney High girls soccer head coach Ana Jones couldn’t have been happier with the effort her reserves put forth in giving Rio Americano all it could handle in Friday’s Capital Athletic League matchup.

“These girls today played beyond the next level,” Jones said of her club’s performance. “We have four of our starters injured, three of our starters gone. What you saw today was my bench.”

And an impressive bench it was, including the remarkable play of goalkeeper Rachel Blankenship who was filling in for the injured Molly McConnell. Unofficially, Blankenship had nine saves and one a diving effort to prevent an almost certain score.

The No. 1 Raiders, 8-0-2 and 3-0 in league, didn’t score until midway through the second period. Rio Americano tried 18 shots on goal, 13 before scoring the game winner.

But the defense wasn’t all Blankenship; the ‘Cats turned back attack after attack brought by a team that has three players who will head to college on full-ride scholarships.

“I couldn’t ask for a better game; I couldn’t ask for a better game,” Jones said. “Right now I could kiss every one of my bench players. We’re going to be good when we have everybody healthy and ready to go.”

Several times Whitney went on the attack but the Raiders’ speed was able to head off the threats. Junior MiKayla English came back after Rio Americano’s score with a shot that was just wide of the goal as the visitors held on for the victory.

Jones said the team discussed just playing solid defense and going for a tie. However, she said the decision was made to play the game straight up because the Wildcats’ program isn’t about settling for ties, it’s about winning.

Whitney is now 12-2-2 and 1-2 in the CAL. The ‘Cats defeated Mira Loma 1-0 Wednesday. The maroon-and-gold travels to El Camino next week and hosts Cordova April 12.