With local club soccer coaches becoming more lenient this season with allowing their players to join the high school ranks, several teams have benefited from the added talent.
None more than third-ranked Palo Verde.
So much was clear Monday afternoon in a rematch of last season’s state final.
Olivia Packer scored two goals, and Carlee Giammona added two assists to lead the new-look Panthers to a 4-2 home win over No. 4 Arbor View in a battle of top Sunset Region teams.
“There are a lot of teams around town seeing the same thing,” Palo Verde coach Frank Messina said. “It definitely was a club situation. This year, I don’t know what happened. But (club coaches) are allowing them to play, which I’m grateful for. It has allowed some talent to come out to the high school level that we’ve been missing.”
Giammona, who is committed to Michigan State, continued her recent dominance of high school competition against the five-time defending state champions. From the midfield position, the junior pressured the Aggies’ defense for 80 minutes and wound up creating goals for Packer and Madison Hernandez.
Giammona got her first assist in the fourth minute to Hernandez, who settled and then skied a ball from 25 yards out over the outstretched arms of Arbor View goalkeeper Krystin Cooper to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
“I’ve been telling them to shoot on frame,” Messina said. “And if they think they can hit it, hit it. Obviously, (Hernandez’s ball) went up high and (Cooper) missed it. It set the tone for the game. Right from there, we were able to let the nerves go a little bit and get after it.”
Packer, who is committed to Pepperdine, gave the Panthers (7-1, 4-0 Northwest League) a huge advantage in the 16th minute. The senior took a pass from Sloan Nelson and sent it just inside the right post for a 2-0 lead — a score that would stand at halftime.
“Even though we’ve had very good forwards, very good midfielders, they’re just a different type of talent we haven’t seen,” Messina said of Giammona and Packer.
Palo Verde finished with 12 shot attempts in the first half, while Arbor View had just three. It appeared the game might get out of hand, but a brief defensive lapse by the Panthers in the second half allowed the Aggies to knot it up in the 54th minute and create some tension down the stretch.
After scoring on a fluky own goal in the 45th minute, the Aggies tied the game when Sierra Vicente took a cross from Allyssa Larkin and sent it over the head of Palo Verde goalie Kailee Barnhard.
“We kind of got back on our heels,” Messina said. “Which I didn’t like. … You could just see we didn’t respond when they scored (the first) goal. We needed to keep up the intensity, but we let down a little bit.”
Packer made sure the team’s dominating performance didn’t go to waste by scoring the go-ahead goal in the 59th minute. Hernandez added her second goal in the 71st minute off an assist by Giammona to seal the victory.
Cooper made seven saves for Arbor View (5-4, 3-1).
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow @af_ferguson on Twitter.