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GIRLS SOCCER: Valpo's Jaime goes hat trick plus one

VALPARAISO -- Little good has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there was a bright spot for the Valparaiso girls soccer team.

Junior Sophia Jaime, who plays in Illinois with Elite Select Soccer Club, decided to join her high school's squad when sports were largely shut down by Indiana's western neighbor.

"I was going to wait until I committed and had that settled," said Jaime, who attended St. Paul Catholic through eighth grade before coming to Valpo High School. "I wasn't 100 percent sure, but that kind of gave me my answer. I always wanted to play with all my friends because I love everyone on this team. I played with most of the girls growing up. It's nice to play with them again, to get that chemistry back again. I love (playing with my sister Ava). We have our times, but on the field it's really fun. This is the most we've ever played together. It was just a good opportunity and I love it so far. It's so fun."

Thursday's Duneland Athletic Conference match with Chesterton sure was, as Jaime broke out with four goals in a 5-1 win.

"She showed up to some things in June," Valpo coach Rob Cespedes said. "I think the big thing was (Ava) became a freshman. It was opportunity to play with her friends from school that she hasn't had the past couple years. Her positive energy and technical skill are very high. Not only has she been a big boost with her technical skill and tactical understanding of the game, (it's the) social chemistry she has with the other players, the way she carries herself. She wants to play. She's not here for anything else and it shows."

Jaime got her big night rolling at 19:07 when she took a cross from Kate Weber and left-footed a shot inside the right post.

"Coach told us right at the beginning to make sure we get a quick touch and switch because we know they play on one side," Jaime said. "Kate played an amazing ball, I just back-posted. That set the tone a little more. Right away, we knew we had to play our own game, pass, not let them get in our heads, start off strong. We knew how they played. We sprinted our hardest in the beginning. We made sure to play simple. We communicated a lot. It helped us not be hard on each other. It was just a really

Sophia Jaime

good flowing game."

Chesterton pulled even on an Addi Joiner goal at 1:57 of the second half, but Valpo scored four times, including three by Jaime, in the next 30 minutes to break the game open.

"It took a lot for us to get back in the game," Trojans coach Ben Forgey said. "We conceded a lot of corners. In the first half, you can look at the number count, we gave them all the practice they needed to be comfortable on corners. You can't say they didn't deserve that second goal based on how many corner kicks they had, whether we conceded them or they earned it. Their pressure got them back in the game. The first half, we stayed together, we didn't get behind them much. The second half, that was a priority, but it also opened us up. (Jaime's) pedigree tells you she's going to be a good player. To be fair, two of her goals, our goal keeper saved and popped back to her. That doesn't mean she wasn't a threat in the first half. She got off several good crosses."

Valpo went back in front at 56:19 when Bella Grisafi slipped a past through to Kayla Green, who stayed onside and deposited a shot into the far corner.

"One thing you're always concerned about is when it comes up even," Cespedes said. "Even after their goal, it wasn't very clear how we were going to respond, but they finally got it together again. We started to find those connections, those one-two passes. The offensive attacks have been very impressive. The girls came out with a lot of positive energy. They definitely used our field to the best of its advantages. Some of the girls just have great footwork. They're able to win some balls in some really tight spots and finish with them."

The Vikings, who had double-digit corner kicks, made one count with 16:13 left when Jaime's serve into the nox caromed into the net off a Chesterton player's foot to make it 3-1.

"When they got that second goal, it was disappointing that we lose concentration and we concede again after that," Forgey said. "I can't say they didn't deserve to win. I look at lots of moments in the second half, we gave as good as we took, but the goal changes the game, then we have to try to chase. They've got quality they can rotate in and out. We've got quality, too. They've got a lot of good players, like we do. Their good players just got more goals than our good players did."

Jaime got the hat trick when she punched home a rebound of her own shot off a feed from Emma Kay.

"It was an amazing ball," Jaime said. "She saw it right away. We had lots of good through balls."

She capped her big night by knocking in another rebound shot out of a clean run on goal.

"Maybe when I was like 10," Jaime said of the last time she scored four goals. "I've had three here and there. I'm hoping for more coming up. It feels nice to get back into scoring. I'm trying to keep a goal mindset but I love distributing the ball also."

As much as Cespedes enjoys seeing the in-match production, he likes the intensity level he sees each day.

"We had some girls graduate so we were uncertain how it would all fit together, but when the girls started to come out over the summer and we found out the season was actually going to go, it was a really great thing to see them play, to see their competitive attitude not only on the playing field but even in practice," he said. "Simple, small-sided games come to be so competitive, I'm like, you guys know it is practice?"

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