It took a little time and a moment of individual brilliance from Caleigh Hufuna to open the scoring.
But once the Enochs girls soccer team found the back of the net, the goals came in a flurry Tuesday afternoon.
With a gusting wind at their backs, the Eagles scored four goals in a nine-minute span to close the first half and cruised into the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs with a 7-1 victory over Merced at the Mary Gorgan Soccer Complex.
No. 5 Enochs will travel to No. 4 St. Francis, which beat Armijo 4-2, for a quarterfinal match on Thursday.
“We believed from having seen them before that if we came out focused and determined we could have success against them,” Eagles coach Josh Handley said. “We’ve won our conference six years in a row. It’s a good conference, but we’ve been waiting for this game. We’ve played for the playoffs.”
It showed as Enochs (17-1) used its speed, physicality and winds blowing upwards of 10 mph to pin the Bears (13-6-2) in their own end in the opening 40 minutes.
Merced held strong through the first 20 minutes, but got burned by a sensational play from Hufuna in the 25th. The sophomore striker won the ball at midfield and then split a pair of Merced defenders, sprinting free for a breakaway. She calmly buried the shot and sparked a wild nine-minute flurry by Enochs.
Mayah Chambers found the back of the net two minutes later, and turnovers by Merced inside its own 18-yard box set up goals by Keana Viss and Hufuna in the 30th and 34th minutes, respectively. The quick run sent Enochs into intermission with a commanding 4-0 lead.
“I think we came out on the field afraid,” Merced caoch Christina Schiewek said. “We weren’t the first to the ball. We didn’t body anybody up. At the end of the day, they were the better team, but we were capable of a better showing than that.
“We came out and gave a much better effort in the second half, but giving up that many goals is tough to overcome.”
Merced did give a more spirited showing after the break, upping its physical play and possession.
The Bears struggled to break down the Enochs back line, however, and began to get burned by the number of bodies they were throwing forward while trying to get back in the match.
McKenzie Moe was sprung free with a through ball in the 58th minute, pushing the Enochs lead to 5-0. Katie Dillon and Chambers worked a perfect two-man counter with Dillon burying a shot in the 65th minute. Hufuna then finished what she started, completing her hat trick just inside the 18 in the 78th minute.
Merced managed to avoid the shutout when Niccole Salm found the back of the net in the 80th minute. Using the wind to provide her power, the junior midfielder converted a free kick from just outside the 18 to make it a 7-1 final.
“We took care of what we needed to do today, now we’ll see if we can get passed the second round,” Handley said. “It’s been our nemesis.”