The game started off with lots of action early on. Highland had a few scoring chances early but goalie Jordan Freese stood her ground and held a clean sheet throughout the game.
The Lady Aztecs began to settle down and kept a majority of the possession for the rest of the game.
“I think the nerves of playoffs and what is on the line made us a little anxious,” junior forward Olivia Nguyen said. “After the first 25 minutes we found a rhythm and started playing our game.”
Both teams continued to create scoring opportunities, but the Aztecs ended the hectic first half tied 0-0 with the Hawks. Junior Abby Robertson made some key tackles to dispossess Highland attackers to take some pressure off of Freese.
From the start of the second half, it was clear that the Aztecs were back to send a message. The team put the pressure on the Hawks defense. Highland’s defense could not keep up all night with Nguyen and junior Skylar Byrnes as they were consistently getting through the Hawk’s back line.
A breakthrough finally came when the Aztecs forced a turnover and Nguyen got the ball and had only the keeper to beat. Nguyen scored the go-ahead with great composure to send it in the bottom right corner. The Aztecs had victory in sight with just about 15 minutes left on the clock.
“When I saw the ball roll out in front of me I knew I had to take it to the goal,” Nguyen said. “I took a touch and looked up and the goalie had the far-net wide open so I told myself to keep it low and hit it hard.”
Nguyen and the Aztecs did not want to leave any doubt in the first round win. Byrnes and Nguyen combined for a textbook cross right to Nguyen who headed it home to put the game in the bag.
“Knowing I could be a big part in helping my team move farther into the state tournament was exciting and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, who played their hearts out,” Nguyen said.
By moving on, the team has to face No. 1 seed Hamilton Saturday at 2 p.m.
“We need to carry our momentum into the next game,” Nguyen said. “Anything can happen in this tournament.”