It took Kelley O'Hara and Christen Press to keep the Ventura County Fusion women's soccer team from making history Saturday night at Buena High.
The USA Under-23 women's national team tandem, who combined for 29 goals at Stanford University last fall, scored a goal apiece as the defending W-League champion Pali Blues held off the Fusion, 2-1, to extend its unbeaten streak to 23 games.
"I thought we gave a great performance and were unlucky not to get something from the game," said Fusion coach Ranbir Shergill. "We just needed a little more in the attacking third (of the field)."
Hopeful of inflicting the first loss in franchise history upon the Blues (5-0-3), the Fusion (1-3-2) gained confidence from the Blues having drawn three of their previous four matches on the road.
That aspiration seemed dead when Press' 25-yard screamer gave the visiting Blues a 2-0 lead in the 65th minute, but Fusion substitutes Heather Vandevanter and Colleen Gibson combined to restore the game with 15 minutes to play.
Vandevanter's pass sent Gibson sprinting clear on goal and the University of Dayton midfielder beat Blues' goalkeeper Kristin Olsen to make it 2-1.
The Fusion's previous best chance was a 70th-minute free kick earned by forward Jessica Velasquez and driven off the crossbar by Brazilian defender Fabiane Nascimento.
But the Fusion also carved out several quality chances in the final 10 minutes.
"We had four or five really good chances at the end, not just to draw the game, but to win it," said Shergill. "They were scared. Anytime you force your opponent back like that shows you've achieved something."
Especially an opponent that features a pair of Beijing Olympic gold medal winners in striker Lauren Cheney and Tobin Heath.
"They're a good team, they're clinical in front of goal," said Fusion goalkeeper Kay Hawke. "But those medals don't mean as much when you're on the pitch."
The Fusion held firm in the face of wave after wave of Pali's fleet-footed attacks, especially English goalkeeper Hawke and Canada midfielder Natalie Martineau, who was one of the best players on the field.
"We showed a lot of character," said Shergill. "I felt we were the better team in the first half."
The Fusion held out for 32 minutes. Until Heath completed a winding 30-yard run through midfield by setting up O'Hara, who slotted home the opener from 18 yards.
Down 1-0 at the half, the Fusion had a penalty claim three minutes into the second half, when winger Emily Cressy was toppled in the Blues penalty area. But build-up play was ruled offsides.
The Fusion now face perhaps the biggest week of the season, with its annual trip to the Pacific Northwest in midweek -- including matches at Seattle Monday and Vancouver Wednesday -- before the return trip to the Blues on Sunday.
"We need to get some wins on this trip," said Hawke. "It's vital."