Liu’s goal beats Bishop O’Dowd in first home game in Piedmont

Bishop O'Dowd goalkeeper Fran Miller-Heller moves to save a shot by Piedmont's Miranda Liu on February 6. Liu would later score the game-winning goal. (Photo by Damin Esper)

Miranda Liu sent the ball into the air, floating over God’s green earth, or maybe the brand new green artificial turf at Witter Field. It was a perfect shot, the ball moving like a moon around its planet, spinning and rotating yet at the same time seeming to just hang in the night sky. Arcing, arcing, arcing …

And into the upper right corner of the net. Liu’s goal in the 80th minute on Feb. 6 gave Piedmont High School a 2-1 win over Bishop O’Dowd in the Highlanders’ first actual home game of the season.

“I don’t exactly remember it,” Liu said of her goal. “It was a lot of in the moment. I knew the score was 1-1. It’s a new field, we might as well come out with a win.”

Said teammate Elsa Wallway, “That was a phenomenal shot! Oh my gosh, I don’t even have words for that. It was perfect.”

Piedmont’s Elsa Wallway (2) breaks away from Bishop O’Dowd’s Julia Fee (11). Wallway scored the Highlanders first goal on a penalty kick. (Photo by Damin Esper)

The planned renovation of Witter Field was supposed to be completed in November, before Piedmont’s first scheduled home soccer games in December. Instead, the project has been paused, with the brand new turf field finished but the surrounding track a hard asphalt loop. Last month, the Piedmont Unified School District decided to reopen the Witter complex so the soccer teams could at least play their senior night and playoff games there, and the lacrosse teams and track programs could use the new field in the spring. The entire facility will close over the summer while the unfinished track is repaired and other work is completed.

The new artificial turf field at Witter Field opened with Piedmont’s girls soccer team taking on rival Bishop O’Dowd on Feb. 6. (Photo by Damin Esper)

The game with Bishop O’Dowd was tight, with the teams scoreless in the first half. Elsa Wallway scored on a penalty kick for the Highlanders in the 46th minute to give them a 1-0 lead.

“I look at the goalie, and throughout the game you can kind of tell what her stronger side is,” Wallway said of the PK. “I noticed she (goalkeeper Fran Miller-Heller) was leaning a little bit towards my right side of the goal so I could tell she was going to try to shift left when I hit it. I picked the right corner and it went in.”

That looked like it was going to hold up until the 72nd minute when Dalia Anderson scored for the Dragons, finding a rebound right in front of the net and putting it home.

Right after the goal went in the net, Wallway scooped up the ball and sprinted to midfield, wanting to give her team as much time as possible to secure the victory.

“it was stressful at the end,” Wallway said. “I ran to the goal, grabbed it out, I said, ‘C’mon ladies!’ I knew we could do it.”

Bishop O’Dowd’s Chloe Keating (4) and Piedmont’s Elia Kwong (9) battle during the Highlanders 2-1 victory. (Photo by Damin Esper)

The win lifted Piedmont to 11-3-1 on the season, 5-3-1 in West Alameda County Conference Foothill Division play. The Highlanders are tied with Berkeley for second place with those two teams facing off on February 9 at Berkeley. Piedmont will jump ahead of current first place team Castro Valley to win the league if they defeat Berkeley. Regardless of Friday’s outcome, they will earn a berth in the North Coast Section Division 3 playoffs (which will be announced on Feb. 11).

And likely, they will get a home playoff game. A real home playoff game, which didn’t look like it would happen a month ago.

“We’ve been driving all the way out to Laney and Chabot colleges for all of our home games,” Liu said. “It’s so nice to finally have this new field. It looks beautiful. I love the feeling of being able to play on a field with a bleacher and people coming. It’s so nice. I love it.”

Said Wallway, “It was so amazing. It’s like the most fantastic feeling ever. First home game, senior night against O’Dowd!

“I think we have a good chance this year again (to win a championship),” she added, alluding to the fact that Piedmont is the defending NCS Division 4 champion.

Piedmont’s Juliana Thornborrow (8) chases down Bishop O’Dowd’s Paige Steinmetz at Witter Field. (Photo by Damin Esper)

Liu, a sophomore, and Wallway, a freshman, are two of the key players for the playoff run. Liu was an impact player immediately as a freshman. In the offseason, she joined the De Anza Force club in Sunnyvale. She also sprinted for the track team in the spring. Her speed on the field is one of her strengths.

“I’ve put in a lot of work to get myself to the next level and I think it really shows on the field,” Liu said. “I’ve been working on a lot of technical stuff because I know I do have to work on shooting but I have to work on how to get into position to take that shot.

“I think I’m not that fast, I’m more quick. Taking those first couple of steps that help me get away from the defender is something that is a really important part of my play.”

It was also senior night for Piedmont. Before the match, the group was honored. They were Lily Caldwell, Malea Hartford, Lola Biehn, Amy Derr, Elle Ruegg, Sara Broach, Clio Salzar, Hailey Marshburn, and Charlotte Davies. Davies missed the season with an injury but took the field with the starters and played a ball out of bounds in the opening seconds before being pulled off.

Seniors on the girls soccer team were honored before the first home game on the new turf field at the Witter Complex on Feb. 6, 2024. L-R, back row: Sara Broach, Amy Derr, Lola Biehn, Clio Salzer; L-R, front row: Charlotte Davies, Hailey Marshburn, Lily Caldwell, Malea Hartford, Elle Ruegg (Photo by Stephen Miller)

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