The Malibu High School varsity girls soccer team faced off against the league-leading Oaks Christian Lions last week in what turned out to be a physically brutal match, leaving players with injuries and the team’s assistant coach getting a red card. The team’s head coach also received a yellow card because of Sharks fans’ rowdy behavior from the spectator stands.
The Sharks lost to Oaks Christian 0-1 in the game on Jan. 26 following its 6-0 league victory against Saint Bonaventure the week before.
The girls came into the game with four league wins, one loss and one tie in their first season in the Tri-Valley League after winning the Frontier League, as well as the CIF Championship last year. The team’s only league loss this season was to Oaks Christian by a score of 5-0. The girls’ narrow loss to the Oaks last week proved to be a testament to the amount of improvement the team has undergone.
“This team has gone through a massive improvement and has come a very long way in a very short time,” head coach John Johnstone said.
The teams’ inherent strong physical natures, the rivalry between the two and the Sharks’ desire to avenge their earlier loss to the Lions led to a game that began with an immediate confrontational tone that lasted throughout the entire contest. The majority of the first half featured primarily a defensive battle, as both teams struggled to find adequate shots on goal. However, at the end of the first half, the Lions were able to find a way through the Sharks’ defense and scored, making the score 1-0 at halftime.
The second half proved to be just as physical and contested as the first half of play. The referees let both teams play extremely rough soccer, as injuries, breaks and free kicks became regularities as the game progressed. At about midway through the second half, a particularly rough exchange between two Sharks and Lions ultimately led to assistant coach Lloyd Kinnear being forced to exit the game with a red card following his dispute of the referees’ call.
This ejection led to more aggression both on and off the field, as both sides of spectators heavily protested a number of the referees’ calls. During the second portion of the second half, Johnstone was issued a yellow card because of the Sharks fans’ behavior. The later portion of the second half also featured a number of injuries, including one to freshman forward Karena Thompson, the Shark with the most shots taken this season. Thompson had to be carried off the field and the time that she will miss is undetermined.
The Sharks gave a valiant attempt toward the end of the game that included a number of shots on goal, but were unable to equalize the score by the game’s conclusion. Players on the team cited a number of reasons for their failure to beat the Lions, including the lack of shots they had on goal. However, the Sharks felt the main reason they lost the game was something they could not control.
“The refs,” Johnstone said when asked what was the biggest problem with the game. “I’ve got girls with broken ankles and girls coming off the field with injuries because the other team is going cleats up and we’re not getting the calls.”
The Lions were the Sharks’ primary rivals and the main team standing in their way of a league title.
“We should have won the game at the end of the day,” Johnstone said. “ We had more opportunities and we deserve the win. We’re unfortunate to lose that game.”
This week, the team continues league play with games against La Reina on Monday and Santa Paula on Wednesday.