Soccer is a sport that tends to favor the opportunistic.
Possession, creative buildup and scoring chances don't mean much if the finishing touch isn't there.
The Merced High girls team can attest to that after a 2-0 loss to host Buhach Colony on Monday.
After struggling to produce shots in the opening 40 minutes, the Bears turned in a dominating second half.
Merced peppered the Buhach Colony net with 10 second-half shots, putting five on frame.
The Thunder's Taylor Briggs was up to the challenge, however. The senior goalkeeper turned away all five shots on goal and gobbled up anything the Bears tried to send over the top of the BC defense.
"They came with a little more energy in the second half, but we kept our pressure up, kept our marks and stayed organized," Briggs said. "I think we just weren't mentally prepared for the Golden Valley game (last week).
"Today we were very prepared."
An early goal certainly helped fortify that preparation.
Sadie Montague's pace down the left wing is going to be a handful for any Central California Conference defense.
The freshman showed why in the fifth minute as the Bears (0-2 CCC, 4-4-2) lost track of her on a through ball from Jennifer Gaeta.
The pass caught Montague in stride, allowing her to cut inside and fire the opening goal into the far post.
Buhach Colony (1-1 CCC) outshot Merced 6-2 in the opening 40 minutes, but the Bears produced the more dangerous looking chances.
The second half was the complete opposite statistically, with the Thunder struggling to get out of their own end.
Merced upped its pressure and slowly began to find cracks in the BC defense.
Nicole Salm and Jetta Saeteurn had a number of quality chances, but couldn't produce anything to trouble Briggs.
"At halftime we told them it needed to be quicker play. We were holding the ball too long," Merced coach Brooke Wilson said. "I thought the second half we controlled the ball and dictated the tempo, but it went for naught since we couldn't finish."
Merced held a 10-1 shot lead 33 minutes into the second half, but BC only needed the one.
Montague was in the thick of the action again, whipping in a cross from the left wing in the 56th minute.
Bears' goalkeeper Jessika McCleskey (five saves) came out to grab the cross, but couldn't hold it. The ball caromed around the Merced 18-yard box and eventually bounced off of a defender's arm for a penalty kick.
Mykayla Macias calmly converted the kick to put the game out of reach.
"This was almost the exact opposite of our first game," BC coach Jose Duran said. "We got the early goal and then got some help with a penalty in the second half.
"They lost a little bit of steam in the second half, but there was a lot of progress from last week. We were much more focused and disciplined."
Golden Valley 2, Turlock 1
Alex Eber converted a pair of penalty kicks about five minutes apart as the Cougars (2-0 CCC, 6-2-2) handed the defending champs their second straight loss to open CCC play.
The Bulldogs stormed back, but Mariah Hermosillo preserved the win with five big saves.
Central California Conference
BUHACH COLONY 2, MERCED 0
BUHACH COLONY (7-2-1, 1-1 CCC) -- Goals: Sadie Montague 1, Mykayla Macias 1; Assists: Jennifer Gaeta 1; Saves: Taylor Briggs 5.
MERCED (4-4-2, 0-2 CCC) -- Saves: Jessika McCleskey 5.
Halftime: Buhach Colony 1-0. JV -- BC 4-3.
GOLDEN VALLEY 2, TURLOCK 1
At Golden Valley
TURLOCK (2-3-1, 0-2 CCC) -- Goals: Isabel Sousa 1; Saves: Ashlen Kuntz 1, Vanessa Orozco 2.
GOLDEN VALLEY (6-2-2, 2-0 CCC) -- Goals: Alex Eber 2; Assists: Brandy Cervantes, Sara Callister; Saves: Mariah Hermosillo 5.
Halftime: 0-0. JV -- Turlock 4-2.