The Esperanza High School girls' soccer team took only eight minutes to score its first goal Thursday en route to a 2-0 Empire League victory over Los Alamitos.
After that, the game, which gave the Aztecs sole possession of first place, went entirely as expected.
"It was a war," said John Coppage, Esperanza coach. "A defensive struggle the whole way. Just like we thought."
Esperanza (18-1-2, 7-0-1) completely controlled the match's first 10 minutes. With precise dribbling and passing, the Aztecs kept the ball away from the Griffins and within their scoring range for nearly seven minutes.
Linda Lunceford, a sophomore midfielder, threaded her way through and around defenders and shot twice before scoring from about seven yards out to give Esperanza a 1-0 lead.
Fifteen minutes into the first half, Los Alamitos began to play better defense, stealing the ball on several Esperanza drives and making its presence felt with physical play.
The Esperanza team appeared panicked.
"What are we doing out there?" Coppage yelled. "This isn't a kickball game. Settle down!"
Los Alamitos held its momentum through the final portion of the first half, and dribbled within scoring range three times.
Esperanza goalie Jennifer Lavoie blocked two shots on the drive to keep the Griffins scoreless.
In the second half, Colleen Gamblin scored Esperanza's second and final goal on a penalty kick past Los Alamitos goalie Kevin Reekes with 20 minutes remaining.
Moments later, Los Alamitos drove downfield and shot, but Lavoie made the save.
"It was an evenly matched game, just as I thought," Los Alamitos Coach Leonard Lopez said. "We learned a lot from this, but we'll be back."
The Griffins (19-3-2, 6-1-1) moved into second place.
Esperanza, ranked third in the Southern Section 3-A, has allowed only five goals this season. It has scored 51.
El Dorado 7, Katella 0--Kami Norton and Anne Marie Ertle both scored two goals to lead El Dorado (6-2-1, 4-2-1), which outshot Katella, 45-4. Kirsten Glennan, Nicole Eyre and Gina Susaeta all scored goals for El Dorado. Susaeta also made two saves as goalie in the first half. Gloria Devon made two saves in the second half. Katella's Jennifer Sneparl made 21 first-half saves and Debbie Swanson made 17 saves in the second half.