Arroyo Grande coaches groaned almost as soon as Santa Maria defender Eduardo Rodriguez put his foot on the ball.
From deep in his own end, Rodriguez zipped a beautiful pass toward Jose Herrera who had broken past the Eagles' defense on the left side. Herrera corralled the pass and bore down on the Eagles' goal.
Arroyo Grande goalkeeper Colton Theaker came out of the goal box, but he had no chance to stop the shot. Herrera knocked the ball into the net in the 29th minute of the second half, giving the Saints a 2-1 win over the Eagles at Arroyo Grande's Doug Hitchen Stadium Tuesday night.
Santa Maria (15-0-3, 2-0) stayed unbeaten with the win in this Mountain League showdown between two of the premier soccer teams in the area. Arroyo Grande is 12-2-1, 1-1.
Herrera struck gold in his first varsity game since being moved up from the junior varsity last weekend.
"I saw an opening on the right side and I just cut right, past the defender," the sophomore said.
"It's a good feeling."
Rodriguez said, "I see my players, and I saw him get open. I trusted him to get to the ball, and I knew he was just going to go."
Arroyo Grande had the ball for most of the second half, but the Saints, though the Eagles bottled up much of their strong short passing game, had the best chances to score then.
Before the Herrera goal, Theaker dove to his left and knocked away a shot that was tailing away from him. An Arroyo Grande defender, near the goal line, knocked away another shot that gotten past Theaker, who has committed to play football at Cal Poly.
The Eagles controlled the ball for nearly all of the first 20 minutes but broke through just once. The Saints couldn't clear the ball out, Gapala Sanchez, near the right sideline, got the ball to Josue Celio and Celio scored in the 10th minute.
"Story of our lives," Arroyo Grande coach Eliseo Ramirez said of the Eagles' missed chances in those first 20 minutes.
"The pitch didn't help, with all the slipping and sliding." It has been a wet past few days on the Central Coast, and players did slip and slide a lot on the natural grass.
Rodriguez tied the score for Santa Maria when he took a looping pass in the Arroyo Grande penalty box and scored in the 18th minute. The shot was the Saints' first.
Before Rodriguez scored, a foul in the box nullified a would-be second Arroyo Grande goal. Two Santa Maria first-half shots hit the top post. An Arroyo Grande shot later in the half hit the right post.
The Saints play their home games on turf, and they struggled with their attack on the natural grass..
"I'm not going to lie, they're a good team," said Rodriguez. "It was hard to get anything going on the grass."
Santa Maria controlled the ball most of the last 20 minutes of the second half. Other than that, the Saints couldn't get much going consistently on the attack. The Saints escaped despite not getting off a shot in the second half until the 17th minute after the break.
Meanwhile, the Eagles uncorked three shots in the first three minutes of the second half. Santa Maria goalie Osualdo Andrade stopped all three.
Salvador Chava and Sebastian Angulo led an Arroyo Grande defense that corralled the Santa Maria offense most of the way. Meanwhile, Rodriguez helped the Santa Maria defense cover most of the Eagles' deep threats.
The Eagles' defense had allowed just nine goals going in, the Saints' defense had let in 11 and both defenses, for the most part, lived up to their prior stats.
Santa Maria will host Righetti at 6 p.m. Friday night in a Mountain League game.
Santa Maria 72, Orcutt Academy 60
Thomas Segel poured in 38 points and Sly Espinoza scored 13 as the Saints (9-9, 1-1) defeated the Spartans (8-9, 0-2) in an Ocean League game on Orcutt Academy's home floor at Lakeview Junior High School.
Genaro Morales pulled down 17 rebounds for the Saints. Jon Garcilazo scored nine points.
Orcutt Academy 63, Santa Maria 36
Mariah Lopez tossed in 27 points, snared 20 rebounds and blocked four shots as the Spartans (14-3, 3-2) rolled to an Ocean League win over the Saints (7-8, 2-4) at Santa Maria's Wilson Gym.
Izzy Wasserman and Giselle Calderon scored 16 points apiece for the Spartans. Erynn Padhal snared 10 rebounds.
San Luis Obispo 60, Righetti 51
The Tigers improved to 19-1 on the season and snapped Righetti's 30-game league win streak that dated back to 2016.
The Warriors are now 8-6 overall and 1-1 in Mountain League games.
Nipomo 53, Morro Bay 11
The Titans (12-7, 5-0) won in a rout over the Pirates (5-11, 0-5) at Morro Bay, setting up a showdown with Pioneer Valley at 6:45 p.m. Friday at Nipomo for first place in the Ocean League.
Madelyn Witcher scored 14 points for the Titans and Leah Miller added 11 in their win over the Pirates.
Santa Maria 2, Nipomo 1
Isabella Medina scored both Santa Maria goals in the Saints' win over the Titans in an Ocean League game at Santa Maria.
The Saints moved to 6-6-2, 2-0. The Titans are 3-12-1, 0-2.
In Ocean League boys soccer action, Nipomo (6-15-0, 3-2) beat St. Joseph (4-7-2, 2-3) 4-2 at Nipomo. No details were available.