When a soccer team is as difficult to score against as the Rosary girls have been this season, credit usually goes to the goalkeeper.
But the Royals have been solid from the midfield on back in their first three weeks of the season, shutting out four of their first six opponents and allowing a total of three goals in that span. The highlight of the early season came Dec. 18, when the Royals scored the only goal in a victory against Villa Park, which entered the game ranked No. 5 in Orange County by the Orange County Register.
“They really are the unsung heroes,” coach Sean Melendez says of the defense. “They’re not going to get their names up in lights for scoring all the goals, but they deserve just as much credit as anyone.”
Melendez, a former captain of the Servite boys’ team who’s in his fourth season with the Royals, considers his midfield of Roisin Allaeddini, Olivia LaCasto, Kelly Shaughnessy and McKenzie Hansen the best in Orange County.
“Our midfield has been the better midfield in every game we’ve played,” he says.
And that includes in Rosary’s first two losses, a 2-0 defeat Dec. 17 against Cathedral Catholic from San Diego, the top-ranked team in the nation, according to TopDrawerSoccer.com, and a 1-0 loss two days later against Aliso Niguel, which was ranked No. 1 in Orange County that week.
Noelle Nisco, a senior defender for the Royals, says this season’s defensive unit works and communicates well together and she credits Melendez for supporting team bonding initiatives. She also credits the maturity of the players, as many of the key contributors are upperclassmen.
“We work well together on and off the field and I think that definitely helps with communication and how we work together,” Nisco says.
Rosary began the season with a two-goalie rotation of sophomore Anna Babiak and junior Emma Toohey. Melendez says he hopes to stick with one goalie once Trinity League play begins Jan. 13 with a game at Orange Lutheran. In the meantime, the competition is still wide open.
“I’m kind of letting them battle it out and figure out who’s going to become the starter by the time we get into league,” he says. “[Against Villa Park] Emma was having a very good game, so we just decided to stick with her. But our keepers are both very good. We’re lucky to have two good keepers.”
We work well together on and off the field and I think that definitely helps with communication and how we work together.—Noelle Nisco, senior defender
Melendez said they each bring different styles of play and their demeanors contrast as well.
“Anna is very technical and a little bit longer and bigger, but Emma is just a little bit more composed and usually doesn’t get rattled that easy,” Melendez says.
Nisco says the defenders are aware of their differences as well.
“I think the communication is a little different, but we always adjust and it always works out,” she says.
The Royals will get a chance to bond off the field this week as well. They’re entered in the Arizona Soccer Showcase in Flagstaff, Ariz., playing three straight games against teams from Arizona before they find out if they advanced to the semifinal round Thursday.
“We’ve got all kinds of tools,” Melendez says. “We’re still just trying to put them all together and figure it out.”