By Chad Robert Snyder

Pilot staff writer

The varsity Bruins walked off the field Thursday dirty, battered and exhausted, but carrying with them a well-deserved victory.

Although not in their usual commanding fashion, the 1-0 win was enough for Head Coach Kristen Frank to say the girls played well, with a caveat or two.

When asked about the first half, Frank said she is concerned about their slow starts this season, and Thursday's game was no exception.

andquot;We need to start faster, especially in the playoffs,andquot; she said.

Frank said the opening period was frustrating. The girls managed to keep the ball away from their own goal for the bulk of it, but were unable to convert opportunities on offense. They took 12 shots in the first half - including several near-misses - but failed to score, entering halftime tied 0-0.

As the second half began, the girls appeared to be playing at a higher tempo. The passing was more effective and the defense allowed fewer penetrations. Approximately 47 minutes into the game, Sonia Gonzalez finally cashed in on an opportunity inside the Bulldog penalty box with the only goal of the game.

Ashley Juarez aided the Bruins' attack in the second half as well, with a number of strong shots on goal and effective advancing of the ball every time she touched it.

Frank said she was satisfied in general with the offense keeping the ball in position to score. But again, acknowledging sounding like a broken record this season, she said she wants the team to finish plays.

andquot;There was a lot of jumble-ball in front of the net. We just needed to pass it out and we would have had open shots,andquot; she said.

The Bruins protected the lead for the remainder of the game. As the play became increasingly physical, the girls matched the intensity and scratched their way through the closing minutes for the win.

Frank said the defense was crucial in Thursday's victory.

She pointed out Lizeth Ochoa, the Bruin sweeper, and said Ochoa was vital to the win.

andquot;All season I've put her in different positions and she's always played well,andquot; Frank said. andquot;She's very consistent.andquot;

The victory takes the Bruins' record to 9-0-2 and, coupled with a South Umpqua loss, the girls are now alone at the top of the conference standings.

andquot;It was another hard game,andquot; Frank said. andquot;This is the type of game you walk away from relieved.andquot;

The girls hit the road Tuesday for a matchup with North Bend. With three game remaining, the Bruins control their own destiny. If they win out, the conference title will come home to BHHS.