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Story By Jai Rakic – ISN
Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN 

Victoria, BC (ISN) – A determined Highlanders Women’s team scored two goals for the first time since the season opener, but still dropped their tenth game in a row Wednesday, losing to the Santa Clarita Blue Heat at Royal Athletic Park 4-2.

Having only won one out of their ten games this season and all hopes of reaching the finals extinguished, the Co-Op Women Highlanders are now just playing to save face and hopefully gain some confidence before next season.

As soon as the opening whistle sounded Wednesday night it was obvious that the Highlanders were out to prove their worth to the home crowd. Having created several opportunities in the opening minutes, Mariel Solsberg would put the Highlanders in front after only six minutes, but the Highlanders lead didn’t last for long.

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Santa Clarita’s Laura Luis (left) and Victoria’s Rebecca Swan battle for control in Wednesday’s action (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

Santa Clarita’s Edite Fernandes levelled the score in the 16th minute after a through ball put her one-on-one with Highlanders keeper Tanya Jones – Fernandes calmly finished.

Disaster struck Victoria in the 24th minute, when a defender tried to clear a Santa Clarita cross, only to have it come off the side of her boot and beat her own unsuspecting goalkeeper.

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Santa Clara’s Edite Fernandes (left) proved too tough to handle for the Highlander’s Mallory Hackett and the rest of the Highlanders as she would score 3 goals Wednesday to lead the Blue Heat to a 4-2 win (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

The Highlanders own goal put the Blue Heat ahead 2-1 and their lead increased when Fernandes scored her second goal of the night, only minutes before halftime. At the half the Santa Clarita lead 3-1.

If the Highlanders were going to walk away with a point, they needed to be the first to score in the second-half, and that’s exactly what they did. In the 76th minute a wonderful piece of teamwork by the Highlanders ended with Abbey Reymer beating the Santa Clarita keeper and bringing her side within one goal.

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Santa Clara’s Ana Borges tries to speed past Highlander defender Nina Anderson in Wednesday night’s action (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

Trailing 3-2 Victoria looked as if they had a chance of getting back in the game, but those hopes were quickly snuffed after Santa Clarita received a penalty in the 77th minute. Highlander Nina Anderson miss-timed a tackle and took out a Santa Clarita player inside the box.

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Victoria’s Sarah Rhodes puts everything into this header in the second half Wednesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

It looked as if Tanya Jones had kept the Highlanders in the game after a superb save stopped Fernandes’ penalty, but the referee called for the penalty to be re-taken, as a Highlander had entered the box before the ball was kicked. Fernandes wouldn’t make the same mistake twice and scored on her second attempt to complete her hat-trick.

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Victoria’s Taylor Gibson looks for an opening in the first half Wednesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

The Santa Clarita Blue Heat were now up 4-2 and that would be the final score when the final whistle sounded.

With only three games remaining in the regular season, the Women’s Co-op team stands no chance of making the playoffs, having lost all but one game this season. The Highlanders can only hope to end this season on a high note and gain some confidence for next year by winning some of their remaining games.

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Victoria’s Sarah Douglas (right) dribbles past Blue Heat defender Ana Borges Wednesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

The Highlanders Women will play their last home game of the season at Royal Athletic Park this Friday, going up against the first place and unbeaten Pali Blues.

See more of Christian J. Stewart’s photos from this game HERE.