FIELD HOCKEY: Mustangs alone in first after 3-1 defeat of Los Gatos

Dani Hemeon stick-handles the ball up field. Hemeon scored in

The Gilroy High varsity field hockey team waited quite some time
for the celebration it enjoyed Tuesday afternoon – five long years
to be exact.
GILROY – The Gilroy High varsity field hockey team waited quite some time for the celebration it enjoyed Tuesday afternoon – five long years to be exact.

As the hometown fans counted down the final 10 seconds of the game, the Mustangs couldn’t hold back the jubilation anymore. The buzzer sounded and a pile of ecstatic players formed 15 feet in front of the cage, an emotional exchange illustrating the win they had been yearning to achieve.

The Mustangs knocked off rival and Mount Hamilton Division foe Los Gatos 3-1 in a display of pure intensity and tenacity, easing some of the lingering pains of two straight Central Coast Section semifinals losses at the hands of the two-time defending section champion Wildcats in 2008 and 2009.

With the triumph, the Mustangs improve to 7-0 in the Mount Hamilton, staking claim to the top spot after the first half of league play.

“(Los Gatos) didn’t play very well. They probably have a lot more in them that we didn’t see today,” said GHS head coach Adam Gemar, reveling in a victory he called the team’s brightest moment to this point of the season. “We always had a counter for what they did today. Position for position, we were better. They had some great players, don’t get me wrong, but we won that game.”

Though merely a league game on paper, and the season is far from over, the win held much more weight for the Mustangs.

“It feels amazing. It was the ultimate test. We have proven to ourselves that we belong in this league,” said University of Iowa-bound senior Dani Hemeon, whose goal four minutes and 13 seconds into the second half put the Mustangs up 2-0.

“When you come into the Gilroy field hockey program as a freshman, you just know you don’t like Los Gatos. Being knocked out of the playoffs the last two years, (the rivalry) has built and built to this.”

The Wildcats have owned the Mustangs in recent years. Gilroy’s last victory over Los Gatos came in the 2005 postseason, a 2-1 triple-overtime thriller.

There is at least one more meeting between the section’s top two teams, perhaps another after that.

The Mustangs dictated game’s pace from the opening whistle. An attack-first mode resulted in a flurry of scoring chances in the first five minutes of the contest.

“It was a strong performance by Gilroy. They performed very well,” said Los Gatos coach Henry Reyes after Tuesday’s loss, which dropped the Wildcats to 6-1 in the Mount Hamilton at the midway point of the season.

“All you can do is use the next games to make adjustments, review the performances and try to come up with a better outcome the next time we play.”

Hemeon and Katelyn Nebesnick nearly put GHS up less than three minutes in on a frenzied sequence inside the circle. Hemeon’s number was called on a Mustangs’ short-corner opportunity. Her shot was saved by Molly Macierz but landed at the stick of Nebesnick who appeared to have a clear look at a goal. Her attempt was blocked by a defender covering the goal line, keeping the score 0-0.

Aubrey Young put the Mustangs ahead at the 20:24 mark of the first half, receiving a pass into the circle, stick-handling left across the goal mouth, eluding a diving Macierz and depositing the ball.

“I got a pass from Monica (Marrazzo) dribbled past the goalie and pushed it in,” Young said of the score. “It was epic”

Gilroy’s defense didn’t allow the Wildcats to spread the field and hampered attempts to connect long passes, which usually morph into scoring opportunites for Los Gatos.

After Hemeon made it 2-0, the Wildcats, who do not get shut out very often, cut the deficit to 2-1 on a goal from Noel Painter with 15 minutes remaining in the second half.

However, unwilling to let up, a defiant Mustangs bunch countered less than one minute later with Shayna Robledo increasing the advantage back to two goals at 3-1.

“Last game against Mitty, we came from behind to win,” senior co-captain Emily Costa said. “That showed us that we can’t stop playing. We talked about keeping the intensity up all week.”

Gemar called the swift response to the Wildcats’ goal a key point in the game.

“That was incredibly awesome,” he said. “It negated any momentum they might have had. We didn’t play scared.”

The two teams square off in the final game of the regular season Nov. 4 in Los Gatos, potentially for the league championship, depending on how the second half of league actions pans out for both schools.

“Next time we play them, they will be hungrier,” Gemar said.

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