MERCED — Sara Callister has found her touch.
The Golden Valley High senior has shed the brace that she donned after having a knee surgically repaired last year and is once again moving with the pace and fluidity that wreaked havoc on the Central California Conference a couple seasons ago.
Her ball skills appear to be back at an elite level as well.
The striker proved it on Monday afternoon, using deft touches to carve up the Buhach Colony defense like an Easter ham.
Callister recorded her second hat trick in as many games to help keep the Cougars atop the league standings with a 5-2 victory at Veterans Stadium.
Im definitely feeling good again, Callister said. All my touches seem to be going exactly like I want them to right now.
The hat trick against Merced was a big confidence boost. I hadnt scored any goals in league until that game, so its nice to put that behind me.
Callister certainly appears to be making up for lost time.
She probed the Thunder back four from the opening whistle and then started the goal onslaught when BC sweeper Alyssa Pomicpic had to leave the field with an injury early in the first half.
The Cougars (9-3-2, 5-1 CCC) were just getting started.
Justyne Sanchez doubled the lead just six minutes later when a Cervantes header caught the Buhach Colony defense sleeping and sprung a wide open Sanchez right down the middle of the BC 18-yard box.
She flicked the ball past a charging Taylor Briggs (four saves) to make it 2-0 Golden Valley.
It was the start of a brilliant afternoon for GVs trio of freshmen. Sanchez, Brandy Cervantes and Brittany Cervantes combined for two goals and three assists.
I know Buhach has some freshmen and theres a couple others around the league, but weve quietly been starting three in the midfield, GV head coach Lee Shaw said. From the last 20 minutes of the Merced game to the first half of this one, you could tell the intensity was different.
We wanted to come out and have energy from the beginning, and they just got after it.
Callister headed in an Eber free kick to make it 3-0 Golden Valley.
BC (7-4-3, 1-3-2 CCC) got a response from freshman striker Sadie Montague. Her left-footed strike trimmed the lead to 3-1 with 10 minutes to play in the opening half.
The Thunder couldnt sustain any momentum, however.
Brittany Cervantes drilled a rebound into the upper 90 in the 38th minute to put the Cougars up 4-1 at intermission.
Just a lot of injuries to fight through, Buhach coach Jose Duran said. We were moving people all over the field to try and fill holes, and Golden Valley exposed us.
We just didnt play our game. We didnt play how we prepared for it. We allowed them to dictate the game.
Callister completed her hat trick 14 minutes into the second half.
Eber curled in a corner kick that a crashing Sanchez redirected towards the far post. Callister was first to react, just barely toeing the ball across the goal line.
Mykayla Macias converted a penalty kick to get one back for Buhach Colony, but that was it for the Thunder offense.
Atwater 1, Turlock 1
Atwaters Valeria Perez turned away 12 shots to preserve the tie.