Bridget Denzel dissolved a 1-1 tie midway through the second half with a nifty back-handed shot that not only found the back of the cage, but also held up as the eventual game winner in a St. Francis 2-1 defeat of Gilroy High in the Central Coast Section field hockey finals Saturday in San Jose.
“I saw the ball coming to me, it came across the middle and I just swept it in,” Denzel said of her goal, which ultimately provided the Lancers with their six CCS title in the program’s history and the first since 2007.
The result wasn’t as sweet for Gilroy, which also finished runner-up in 2010.
“This year, they thought we weren’t going to bring anything to the table, but we really brought it and got this far. It’s hard to get all this way and lose,” Gilroy’s Emma Leach said.
Denzel’s tally was the second of two straight unanswered goals for the fourth-seeded Lancers after Gilroy’s Monica Marrazzo propelled the No. 2-seed Mustangs to a 1-0 lead 40 seconds into the first half.
“That early goal was nice, but then they were hammering us,” said GHS head coach Adam Gemar, who has led the Mustangs to at least the semifinals four consecutive seasons. We could never get the ball rolling, really. (St. Francis) is well coached, they had a good game plan and stuck with it the whole time. Their girls were tenacious the whole game. They just kept coming at us.”
After Marrazzo’s goal, one that she manufactured on a restart at the 20-yard line and maneuvered her way through a congested circle to deposit the ball, the Lancers were persistent with pressure and earned seven shots on goal and three short-corners in the first half, eventually breaking through the Mustangs’ defense and goalie Marissa Mazzone with a goal by Kathleen Garrity one minute before halftime.
“We never thought we would get here, and then getting this far and losing, it is so hard,” senior captain Kristina Chuck said.
The Lancers picked up where they left off in the second half and had one goal disallowed (the shot came from outside the circle and went into the net without anyone who was standing in the circle touching it) two minutes before Denzel made one that counted.
“The little things, sometimes, make all the difference. I don’t think we brought it today. We brought 80 percent, they bought 95 percent. And that means a 2-1 loss,” Gemar said. “We had a lot more we could have gave, I think.”
Gilroy had a golden opportunity to tie the game with 2:30 left. A short corner entry pass from Marrazzo to Leach started the scoring chance. Leach slid the ball to Kaylana Mah whose shot-pass made it through to Ashlee Williams. However, the senior’s redirect was kicked out by Lancers’ goalie Amanda Delfino.
“We just wanted it so bad,” said Marrazzo, who stood teary-eyed with Chuck, who also had tears streaming down her cheek. “We worked so hard and it just sucks to get here and not win.”
The Mustangs, with just 15 players – at most – and three seniors, finish the season at 9-4-5.
“These guys played with heart every game,” Gemar said. “It was almost a rebuilding year, but not really. Our heart and chemistry brought us a long way. Just to see them come from the start of the season until now was awesome.”