Soccer is a sport with so much tradition and history that it’s hard to introduce anything new to it.
Clovis East girls soccer head coach Tony Badella doesn’t care. He wants to show Clovis a new type of soccer his Timberwolves play.
“Smashmouth soccer,” said Badella. “You can call it that. Our girls play with a ton of grit and heart.”
In a game where physicality was at a premium, Clovis East played their gritty, smashmouth style in the cold fog of McLane Stadium, yielding a 2-2 draw against a talented Bullard team Tuesday.
The first half began slowly as both squads felt each other out in the cold – but play heated up towards halftime.
Bullard got on the scoreboard first with a scoring strike from junior midfielder Mia Ferguson in the 30th minute.
Clovis East compiled more shots on goal than Bullard in the first half, yet were denied several times by Bullard goalkeeper Julie Moreno.
Clovis East finally broke through before halftime with a sliding goal from Ashley Gardner in the 38th minute.
The Timberwolves opened the second half aggressively, but soon after conceded a goal from the far post to Bullard’s Jackie Vazquez in the 46th minute.
Bullard maintained possession in the attacking field for most of the second half, but could not extend their lead further.
This would cost the Knights dearly.
All it took was one chance for Ashley Gardner to dribble through Bullard’s defense and score the equalizer in the 64th minute.
With the score tied, the game’s intensity ratcheted up in the final fifteen minutes of regulation as physical play kept either side from challenging offensively.
Gardner was alone on a breakaway in the final minutes, but was tackled from behind and apparently injured. No foul was called and the score would remain tied for regulation.
Gardner would be shaken up on the play, but remained undeterred.
“When there is physical play, it makes me want to push hard and play even harder,” Gardner said. “It makes me want to score more, because I want it more than them.”
Gardner netted two goals for Clovis East in regulation, but could not muster another in the extra period. Clovis East and Bullard both traded shots on goal in overtime but neither could score.
The closest chance for the Timberwolves came from forward MacKenzie Madron, who hit the crossbar in the final minute of overtime.
Missing such close opportunities frustrated Padella as his team would eventually draw with Bullard 2-2.
“In big games, we have to execute,” Padella said. “Against good teams like Bullard, that’s gonna make the difference: who finishes the few chances they get and who doesn’t.”
Clovis East showed Tuesday night they have the will to hang with the best of Division-I girls soccer; now it’s just a matter of finding a way to win.
Clovis East (1-0-1) will next play another talented team from Fresno, as they face two-time section champion Edison High (3-0) on Friday morning at Clovis High. This match will be part of the two-day Harold S. Young tournament.