The longest scoring drought in Sara Latham’s decade-long soccer career is over.
From the time she started in youth leagues. through Turlock High and onto Modesto Junior College, Latham was nearly unstoppable on offense. And that continued all the way until last year, which she had to sit-out after transferring to CSU Stanislaus from the University of Houston.
Now a year older and wiser, Latham is finding her stride and her scoring touch, scoring two goals Thursday night as the No. 3 nationally-ranked Warriors disposed of Division III UC Santa Cruz 6-1 at Warrior Stadium.
“This was great tonight,” said Latham, a junior forward. “Everybody played well, and for me it was worth the wait. It’s been about two years, but it feels so good to be back on the field.”
Freshman Jade Poon added two goals, giving her nine through the Warriors’ first six games, while Lauren Thornton scored on a penalty kick and Mireya Magana, a freshman from Tracy, scored her first collegiate goal on a touch shot over the raised arms of Santa Cruz keeper Gabby Trujillo.
In all, 22 players saw 11 or more minutes of action for Stanislaus, 6-0 after its 17th straight home victory and 22-0-2 in its last 24 regular season games. The Banana Slugs fell to 4-5-1.
“Santa Cruz battled hard and scored a great goal, but this was a good opportunity for us to play at home and play a lot of players to get them into the mix before conference came up,” said Warriors coach Gabe Bolton.
Stanislaus has outscored its opponents 23-4 in the early part of the season, but now it gets difficult. The Warriors travel to play Chico State on Sunday. It’s a game against a California Collegiate Athletic Association rival, although it won’t count in the CCAA standings. Conference play opens a week from tonight at San Francisco State.
While at MJC Latham scored 40 goals and added 10 assists, twice being named to the Big 8 Conference first team. She was an all-region pick asa freshman and a second-team All-American as a sophomore in 2011. She didn’t play in her year at Houston, and because she had to sit out the 2013 season after returning home, this is her first time playing college soccer since she was at MJC.
“You never would have known she was sitting out,” Bolton said. “She worked as hard or harder than anyone on the team and always had a great attitude. She became the team’s No. 1 fan.”
And as such, being stranded on the sidelines as Stanislaus rolled to an 18-1-2 record, a CCAA Championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, Latham ached to be on the pitch.
“I tried to stay positive, even though I knew it was going to be a long year,” she said. “I was anxious watching that team and wanted to be out there, but this experience has been worth it.”
WARRIORS NOTES: Stanislaus has been awarded the CCAA Soccer Championships for the fifth time in six years. The men’s and women’s conference champions, who receive automatic berths in the NCAA Division II tournament, will be crowned during the event, set for Nov. 7 and 9 at Warrior Stadium.