LA GRANDE — The La Grande Tigers were generating constant pressure and scoring opportunities, but for much of the first half couldn’t break through against the Baker Bulldogs’ defense.
La Grande led 2-0 at the break, but it easily could have been a five- or six-goal margin, especially considering the Tigers had 20 shots in the first half and dominated possession.
“It wasn’t our best connective possession play, but we played well,” head coach Sam Brown said. “I think the second half we came back better.”
La Grande, though, finally broke the game wide open with three second half goals on the way to a 5-0 win over the Bulldogs Saturday in their Greater Oregon League opener.
“When you get a couple goals ahead, (you’re) able to calm down and relax a bit. The confidence increases, the touches improve,” Brown said.
The Tigers needed only nine minutes to get on the scoreboard when Audrey Garlitz dribbled in and scored from about 10 yards out.
What followed was a run of missed opportunities. A few shots missed wide but most were stopped by Baker goalkeeper Shayna Ruby, who had 10 first-half saves and 17 total to keep the Bulldogs in the match.
“Shayna is an amazing goalie,” Baker head coach Kristen Rushton said. “She has a brilliant ability to read the ball and to know where her goal is behind her, which is very uncommon in high school play.”
Several of Ruby’s saves were made on point-blank shots, including a save on a run-in by Garlitz where the two met at the ball almost simultaneously and Ruby made the stop.
“She did really well, and some of them were really good saves, right in the corner,” La Grande’s Katie Perry said of Ruby. “She did a good job.”
Perry’s goal from 11 yards out in the 35th minute gave the Tigers some breathing room, and the Tigers netted three goals in a 12-minute span in the second half to turn the game into a rout as Lindsay Adkins, Rosie Aguilera and Starra Ullman each scored.
“I feel like whenever we score our first goal we start playing a little bit better, we start playing a little bit more confidently. It still took us a long time to score after that,” Perry said. “Once we got into the second half we got it going, especially the first part of the second half.”
The Tigers’ defense turned in a third straight shutout and fourth on the season — all coming at home. La Grande allowed just two shots on goal, and Alexyss Chamberlain and Brenna Strand recorded a save in each half — Strand’s coming on a leaping stop on a Baker free kick.
Even though it may not have shown, in that it became a one-sided game on the scoreboard, Rushton was pleased with the effort of her team Saturday.
“The La Grande team is a great team. They have great control, they are really aggressive and they play soccer well,” she said. “It was a great game today. It was very respectable, even though the score was 5-0, the goals they made were beautiful goals, but I feel like we held them really well.”
Brown commended Baker’s effort on defense.
“They played well defensively, very similar to Umatilla. She had them well organized,” he said.
Baker (1-4 overall, 0-1 GOL) hosts Nyssa Tuesday.