Sharks battle through bout of injuries in early season play

Injuries have plagued the Malibu High School girls soccer team so far this season. Seven players, all varsity level, have missed significant time, said head coach Jack Craig.

As a result, the Sharks have started the year at 1-4-1.

“Losing seven varsity players — five or six of them are starters — that’s what’s impacting this,” Craig said.

But, despite a less-than-desirable start to the year, Craig still has high hopes for his team.

“I think that, for us, for league play, anything less than a Tri-Valley League championship, we would fall short,” Craig said. “I believe, as far as league play is concerned, that if we can stay healthy, we’re the best team.”

Last season, Malibu reached the playoffs with an overall record of 15-9-1, but fell short of the title. Craig said the difference this year, aside from injuries, has been a different roster.

“We had some very accomplished seniors that were true impact players,” Craig said. “This year’s team is relatively young.”

However, Malibu’s early struggles haven’t stopped team captains Seaira Moore, Britty Walley and Abby Blackwood from performing well and leading their team.

Moore, a senior goalkeeper, has 87 saves so far this season. Malibu’s opponents have launched a total of 116 shots on goal. Walley and Blackwood have 21 and 17 steals this year, respectively.

“Those three players have really impacted the team in a positive way, really making a difference [with] leadership by example,” Craig said.

The Sharks benefit from having three captains because they all bring something different to the table, Craig said.

“It’s the combination of the three that makes it not only successful, but unique,” Craig said.

In a game against the Westlake Warriors on Dec. 15, the Sharks lost 6-1 after starting with 11 available players, but finishing with only eight due to injuries. But it was the second-half resilience of the team from which Craig took away positives.

The Sharks held the Warriors scoreless after halftime, and managed to sink a goal themselves.

“I think when you see a group of players like that, that can connect and stay together regardless of the odds against them, I think that’s pretty amazing,” Craig said.

The schedule to start the year also hasn’t done Malibu any favors. Craig said the Sharks have faced schools that are either Division I or II, making it difficult for the team to win games.

But Craig attempts to keep his players ready, and feels they have competed well so far this season.

“The main thing is focus, commitment to our system of play, and to just compete with heart and character and stay in the game consistently, regardless of the score,” Craig said. “I think [the players] have that. They’ve displayed that even in losing.”

Aside from health, Craig feels the team’s camaraderie will propel them to a league championship.

“I think that when you have any team that’s committed to each other,” Craig said, “that will be the one thing that will push us over the hump against some tough competition.”

Malibu starts league play on Wednesday, Jan. 14, against the Bishop Diego Cardinals.