The VC women's soccer team tightened the Western State Conference race Friday night with a 2-1 victory over first place Cuesta at the VC Sportsplex. Natalie Lansberg and Sammy Zanini each scored goals for Ventura (8-4-2, 3-2) as they gave the Cougars their first conference loss. With one game remaining in the first round of WSC play, Cuesta, Santa Barbara and VC remain within four points of each other in the conference standings.
The Pirates produced numerous quality chances throughout the game on the offensive end of the pitch, beginning in the fifth minute when Zanini hit a cross from the left side that was deflected out for a VC corner kick. Four minutes later, Jasmin Ambriz had a nice through ball to Jacqueline Rivera, whose shot from 10 yards out was saved by the Cuesta goalie.
The teams settled in at that point, keeping the action primarily in the middle third of the field until the Cougars broke through on a counter attack in the 25th minute, only to be stopped by Pirate goalie Aracely Castro.
On a VC corner kick in the 34th minute, Lansberg settled a rebound from a Jacky Espinosa shot, sliding the ball past a defender for a 1-0 Ventura lead. The score remained as the teams went into halftime.
VC continued its aggressive play in the second half. The Pirates had a strong run down the right side to the end line before Zanini turned on a centering pass, only to be stopped by the goalie in the 51st minute. Espinosa produced a big-time right-to-left cross in the 58th minute that went without a follow up by the Pirates for the finish, and Aleesa Ramirez had a rocket shot from 30-yards out that was turned back a minute later.
On a set piece from just outside the box in the 63rd minute, Zanini took a pass and hit a shot from 10 yards out, hitting the right post. That was followed by a runner from Yareli Vasquez from 25 yards out that sailed over the cross bar in the next minute.
Four minutes later, Janneth Cruz settled an attack on the right side, sending a centering pass to Karen Martinez, who hit Zanini just inside the penalty box left of center. She then sent a shot to the top shelf inside the backside post for a 2-0 Pirate lead.
Cuesta made things interesting with a goal in the 80th minute, but the Pirates were able to hold them off for the final 10-plus minutes to preserve the win.
Ventura had 21 shots in the game with 12 on frame while Castro recorded four saves in goal for the Pirates and Yadi Raigoza also had a strong defensive game.
The Pirates will conclude the first round of WSC North Division play on Tuesday Oct. 22 at Los Angeles Pierce College. They return home on Friday Oct. 25 for a key match-up with Santa Barbara.