CHICO — Thursday afternoon”s meeting between the Chico and Las Plumas high girls” soccer teams was a game in name only.
It was fitting in many ways for the two clubs, clearly on opposite sides of the Eastern Athletic League spectrum, but to put on the shooting-gallery performance the Panthers did in their home finale, in which they said goodbye to eight seniors, had to be the sweetest of all.
Chico got four goals from Katie Brown and never stepped off the accelerator, pummeling the Thunderbirds once again in a 10-0 performance the Panthers hope can springboard them toward a brighter playoff run as the regular season burns off.
“Games like this are confidence-boosters,” said Brown, who assisted on the Panthers” first goal before burying four of her own well after the match was in the hosts” back pocket. “It shows that we”re always trying to get better. We don”t want to settle for anything less than greatness.”
LP (1-12-1, 1-8-1 EAL) didn”t exactly demand it from Chico (13-3-1, 7-3-1), crossing midfield to attack just often enough to lose count if using both hands and routinely getting hemmed into its own 18-yard box by a Panther back line that routinely played 15 yards inside the midfield circle.
Of course, Chico didn”t leave much of a choice as to how it would go. From the fifth minute on, the Panthers were in control, with Brown”s corner kick getting a detour into the net off the foot of Sophia Leiker. Less than a minute later, LP gifted an own goal when a defender couldn”t handle Cassidy Murphy”s cross through the keeper box; by the time the 25-minute mark rolled around, the Panthers had poured in three more, two from Brown on assists by Leiker and Shelby Hiler and another from Jennifer Wellman courtesy of a Hannah Mikles setup.
Coming off a 1-0 loss to Pleasant Valley on Tuesday in which it was stymied, Chico was back to bulging the net against the Thunderbirds.
“It”s nice after a rough game, to come out and play and just enjoy a soccer game, especially for our seniors,” Chico coach Sarah Parker said. “It”s very emotional to see say goodbye to some of these girls, who I”ve had the opportunity to get to know and love, so to have a good time and enjoy ourselves like this means a lot.”
For the visitors, it was more of the same against this particular opponent. LP has yielded goals at a furious clip this season, particularly to Chico, and so it went for the T-birds again on Thursday. It pushed the scoring disparity to 34-1 in just three games, a mind-boggling figure for any trio of matches, let alone league fixtures. But this game was clear evidence of how it”s come to pass, with the Panthers dominating possession and position throughout. Chico tacked on five more goals in the second half, with Hiler, Murphy, Neala Cronin and Brown — twice — rounding out the onslaught. Cronin and Wellman each had a hand in creating the first two; the rest were simply defense-shredding runs from Brown and Wellman that ended in fearless and successful distance strikes.
For the Chico State-bound Brown, whose 77th-minute fourth tally nudged the margin into double figures, it was a rewarding farewell effort to be shared with her senior Panther cohorts.
“It was great. I had a lot of emotions coming up, flashbacks of freshman year, even,” Brown said. “Just really wanted to enjoy this one with my seniors and in front of my family.”
Connect with Sports Writer Travis Souders on Twitter @travissouders.