The way Tuesday afternoon's match began, with Bakersfield College easily maintaining possession in Cuesta's half for long stretches and the Cougars having brought just 11 players to Bakersfield, it seemed inevitable that the Renegades would send at least one shot to the back of the net.
Yet Cuesta kept its defensive shape, and an hour passed with no score.
That's when Mariah Myers-Caldarella finally stepped in. After a series of near-misses in the late first half, the freshman forward from Centennial won space from the Cougars' defense and bounced a low shot past goalkeeper Roni Hinson to break the ice.
Denise Ortiz Perez seized on a cross from Karla Esqueda Cardona six minutes later to double BC's lead, and the Renegades took home a sleepy 2-0 victory.
"The girls came out and performed, I think, at a decent competition level," BC coach Edgar Linares said. "I just think that they could have provided a lot more. They just kind of didn't get a rhythm going that we wanted."
Cuesta produced just one particularly threatening shot all game, a long-distance effort from Alexa Garcia in the 22nd minute that caught BC goalie Katelyn Gonzalez momentarily off guard and forced a corner kick (which was cleared away without much difficulty). But even as the short-handed Cougars wore down over the course of each half, the Renegades struggled to put quality efforts on goal against Cuesta.
"I think they were a little bit more conservative," Linares said, "and logically, by their numbers on the bench, it made it logistic for them to want to hold back a little bit, and so we had to make adjustments."
The pre-adjustment BC offense was rather lethargic, sending an assortment of low-quality shots at Hinson that she handled easily. In the 19th minute, Meagan Moncada Perez dispossessed Braelyn Borene to set herself up at the edge of the box, but she rushed a shot that bounced harmlessly off the side netting. A minute later, Liliana Flores fired from long range and Hinson tipped the shot away with her left hand.
The Renegades got their best attempts late in the half, as they brought in substitutes while Cuesta could not. A long-distance pass from sophomore defender Myla Chow found Esqueda Cardona near the corner, and her shot from the right side drifted over Hinson, but wound up just wide to the left.
Myers-Caldarella sent a similar line drive at Hinson moments later that missed the left post as well as a cutting Ashley Flores. Just before the half, Myers-Caldarella had another chance on a well-taken through ball from Ortiz Perez, but her shot was lofted over the bar.
Linares opted for a more aggressive approach after the intermission.
"We just changed the system that we were playing to match a little bit more of their numbers in the back ... and just told the girls, do what they know how to do at practice," he said.
Initially, BC still struggled to finish. Ashley Flores was wide open on the left wing in the 52nd minute and played in a cross that was deflected by Hinson, but after a Cuesta defender missed a chance at clearance, Ortiz Perez wound up for a shot, only to have it sail wide.
Then, Myers-Caldarella's goal finally arrived from her great individual effort. Ortiz Perez owed her strike a few minutes later later to the work of Esqueda Cardona, who rounded the right back with a well-placed dribble and drove in a low cross that Alexa Shearer missed but Ortiz Perez slotted home.
BC almost tacked on one more in the 77th minute when Esqueda Cardona took a nice first touch to set up Shearer, but her effort was caught by Hinson.
Cuesta played the very end of the game with 10 women after an injury to Borene, but managed not to concede any further goals.
BC remained undefeated, and will host Ventura Friday for its final nonconference match, in which Linares will hope for a stronger showing.
"We just want to come out fired up and ready to go and bring all the energy that we have," he said.