It may have been the 2019 opener for the Torrey Pines girls soccer team but senior captain Tatum Lenain showed that she was already in mid-season form Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 3, scoring a pair of goals to lead her Falcons to an impressive, 3-1, victory over Orange County powerhouse Mater Dei in the first match of the annual Butch Lee Memorial Tournament (hosted by Cathedral Catholic).
Under ninth-year Head Coach Martyn Hansford, Torrey Pines won CIF Open Division titles in 2016 and ’17 but after running up a combined record of 30-6-10 the past two years, was twice eliminated from the CIF Playoffs as a first-round favorite. Ranked No. 4 in Union-Tribune pre-season poll, this fall’s squad is off to a good start, foiling an opponent that handed them one of their four 2018 losses in the championship of the Butch Lee event.
“They’re a physical team and it’s always a tough game,” said Lenain, a first team All-CIF midfield selection as a junior. “They play a little more direct than we’re used to seeing so it’s a challenge defensively but overall, I thought it was a good first game.” Thanks in large part to Lenain.
The Georgetown-bound left-footer got the host Falcons on the board first. With 4:49 remaining in a first half that had been largely an even affair, Lenain caught Mater Dei keeper, Kelly McManus off her line and lofted the ball home from nearly 35 yds. out. Lenain had narrowly missed a similar attempt a few minutes earlier and was surprised to get another opportunity.
“You’re always looking for those chances,” said Lenain. “When she’s that high out, that’s just asking someone to take a shot.”
The TP lead didn’t last long as the Monarchs struck back a minute and 35 seconds later when sophomore Angelina Ramos connected to make it 1-1. That’s how the first half concluded. After the break, the Falcons seemed to steadily gain the upper hand in the run of play and Lenain got another opening in the 24th minute. After a Mater Dei foul gave Torrey Pines a free kick from just outside the top of the box, Lenain rifled what proved to be the game-winner, past the four-player wall, off the hands of an out-stretched McManus and into the upper left side of the net.
Moments later, it was almost déjà vu as the visitors immediately got chance to equalize but an outstanding defensive play right in front of the goal by senior Talia Nakata not only turned away the Monarchs but initiated a sequence that essentially put the game out of reach. After defusing a serious threat, Nakata chased the ball to the east sideline, controlled in a 50-50 situation and sent a well-placed forwarding pass up the touchline to sophomore Tatum O’Coyne near midfield. O’Coyne out-raced her mark, cut back inside and from between two defenders buried a shot in the bottom left corner, making it 3-1, with 22:30 to go.
The Falcons maintained command to the final whistle and for Hansford, who has a relatively young team which has had precious little practice time leading up to this, it was a satisfying outcome. “We’ve got a lot of new faces and for the most part played pretty well,” he said. “We had some mental mistakes but it’s the first game.
“I don’t like them but I’m OK with those types of things at this point of the season. We’ll have plenty of time to sort them out.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have an experienced talent like Lenain to lean on in the early going.
“Tatum’s just a really impressive player,” said Hansford. “She’s always been very composed and takes her time with the ball.
“We’re trying to get her the ball in an area where she can score or create a great chance for someone else. She’s a classic No. 10 player who can be the link between the defense and midfield, but she has the ability to excel anywhere on the field.”
Lenain likes what she’s seen of her team so far and, if it keeps progressing, has hopes for a better end-of-the-year result.
“I think we can be really good,” said Lenain. “We’ve got a bunch of young talent, including some size and pace up front. I’m excited to see what we can do.”
The Butch Lee Memorial Tournament, which includes defending CIF Open Division and currently No. 1-ranked Carlsbad among others, continues throughout the week with the semi-finals set for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Cathedral Catholic followed by the championship clash at 1 p.m.