The margin for error hasn’t grown much in recent seasons.
Goals usually arrive few and far between when the Rosary girls’ soccer team is on the playing field and it doesn’t seem to matter if the Royals are trying to score the ball, or keep it out of their net.
In eight of the first 13 games this season, Rosary and its opponent combined for one goal or less, including four 0-0 ties. Only twice in that span had a game featured more than two goals.
Rosary coach Sean Melendez said the Royals have managed to limit opponent celebrations with consistently strong effort and execution from their back line, anchored by senior Amy Morikawa and junior Lauren Hansen.
They’ve teamed well with freshmen Natalie Tinkler and Emma Goggins to not only excel at keeping the ball out of their net, but do so while adjusting to a new defensive system.
“It’s taken a little bit for the girls to kind of buy in, but they’ve bought in now,” Melendez said. “They can see that, no matter who we play, we just don’t give up that many good chances.
”Hansen has been especially impressive, patrolling the back middle with Morikawa, identifying potential scoring chances and snuffing them out long before they develop.
“Where most teams are doing geometry, that kid’s on calculus,” Melendez said of Hansen. “She just reads things so far ahead of everyone else.
”Hansen comes from a family with strong ties to Servite, Rosary and their athletic programs. She said her instincts and intuitiveness likely developed from watching her older sister, Mackenzie, play the sport growing up. Mackenzie starred for four years at Rosary and now plays for Chapman University, where she recently completed her freshm an season.
Lauren was a reserve on the Rosary varsity team as a freshman two years ago. An injury to another player early in her sophomore year opened the door for Lauren to join her sister in the starting lineup. Last season was more of a learning experience for Lauren, and this season she’s emerged as a standout player, both in skill and leadership.
“I like to step up to be a leader when I have to,” she said. “This is a good example for me, and a good opportunity for me to step up and be a leader.”Being vocal is an integral part of the new defensive system adopted by Melendez and Hansen has been quick to catch on while also seamlessly adjusting to her new teammates on the back line.
“It’s a transition because we have a lot of new faces on the field,” she said. “We’re working together a lot. … We made a lot of progress, so I’m excited to see where we get once we hit league.
”The Royals open Trinity League play with back-to-back home games at Fullerton College against JSerra on Jan. 10 and Mater Dei on Jan. 12. Mater Dei and another league foe, Santa Margarita, have combined to win the last three CIF-SS Division I titles.
Hansen doesn’t expect the defense to soften up for those teams. “I like playing against the big schools, like Mater Dei or Santa Margarita, because it’s good competition for us,” Hansen said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to step up and show who we are.”