Fort Osage forward Aliyah Ayala made an immediate impact as a freshman during the 2017-18 campaign, scoring 41 goals.
She is no longer a well-kept secret as a sophomore this season as opponents often man mark her.
It hasn’t slowed her down, however, and that showed Tuesday against crosstown rival William Chrisman. She scored two goals and added an assist to help put the Indians in the driver’s seat in the Suburban Middle Seven Conference following a 4-0 win at Norman James Field.
Fort Osage improved to 8-1 overall and 6-0 in league play and are now in sole possession of first place after knocking off the previously unbeaten Bears (5-1, 4-1).
“So far we’ve had a great start to conference,” said Fort Osage coach Michael Brown, whose team earned a share of the last season’s conference title with Staley, who is now in the Suburban Large Seven, last season. “Our girls are excited for the conference race again. We still have six games left and we haven’t seen Belton or Raytown.”
Ayala has been a big part of that. She scored her 26th and 27th goals of the season, and is now averaging a hat trick per game. Currently, the sophomore is on pace to score close to 60 goals.
Brown said he has particularly been impressed with Ayala’s ability to finish despite drawing so much attention from opposing defenses.
“She’s a heck of a finisher” Brown said. “She got some chances inside the box. We built up our attack and got her the ball in good positions. She is just a clinical finisher.”
She was the beneficiary of a pair of pinpoint passes from senior teammate Megan Lyon in the first half. Ayala received a long cross that Lyon sent from the right sideline. The sophomore nudged a shot inside the left post to give Fort Osage a 1-0 edge in the third minute.
“We play pretty well together,” Ayala said. “We have some freshmen in the midfield that are working hard and doing pretty well. I wouldn’t score so many goals without them. I have been working my tail off to make the freshmen as comfortable as possible.”
Ayala outran three Chrisman defenders in the 17th minute and got an open shot just outside the 18-yard box but her shot was saved by a diving Karina Vela.
She made the most out of her next shot attempt, though. She received a through ball from Lyon, had her back to a Bears defender, turned around and fired a shot off the left post and into the goal for a 2-0 lead in the 19th minute.
Ayala got her assist on the team’s third goal in the 33rd minute. She sent a corner kick near the right post and senior Bailee Summer got her knee on the ball and knocked it in for a 3-0 advantage.
Ayala had a good chance at a hat trick when she was fouled by Vela on a breakaway in the first half, but she pushed her resulting penalty kick wide right.
Fort Osage controlled possession from start to finish and allowed the Bears to get off only three shot attempts. The Indians held an 8-1 advantage in shots on goal and Chrisman didn’t have a shot attempt until the 36th minute.
“Fort Osage has so many good players.” Chrisman coach John Straub said. “Not only are they good skill-wise, they have a lot of athletic players. They are very smart and their movement off the ball makes it challenging. Their offensive firepower made us a little hesitant about pushing up.”
Fort Osage capped the scoring when freshman Emma Le came up with a savvy goal. Junior Sophia Smith sent a direct free kick high in the air. Vela came to challenge at the top of the box, and Le lobbed a header over her and into the goal.
“To get a header to go in from that far out, especially as a freshman, is hard to do,” Ayala said. “Any touch is fantastic and she finished it well.”