No substitutes, no problem. The Gilroy High girls soccer team limped into Friday night’s winner-take-all Tri-County Athletic League finale against Salinas without its starting goalkeeper and with no bodies on the bench.
As GHS head coach Jose Hernandez has said all season, the Mustangs played with what they had – and did so in championship fashion.
After falling behind 1-nil 10 minutes into the match, Gilroy unleashed three unanswered goals in the first half, survived the second half against a fast, physical and previously unbeaten Cowboys squad to capture a 3-1 victory and its sixth consecutive league crown in front of a lively crowd on Senior Night.
“They all mean something, but this one, with all that we have been through the last few weeks, it’s nice,” Hernandez said. “We matched their intensity. That was the biggest difference between this game and the last one. The girls were focused and they knew what they had to do.”
The three GHS goals are the most the Cowboys (11-2-5 overall, 8-1-3 TCAL) surrendered to a league opponent this season. They also held their counterparts scoreless in nine of 12 TCAL tilts. GHS and Salinas tied each other 0-0 in the first meeting at The Pit on Jan. 26.
“We were pumped, we came ready to play. Being at home helped – the atmosphere,” junior Taylor Slattery said. “We did not want to be the first class to break the streak. That made us work even harder to get it.”
A season’s worth of limps, bruises, cleat marks and turf burns were still there afterward. However, the toll of the most recent tightly-contested 80 minutes didn’t effect the celebration.
“We thought about No. 6 all season,” junior Cynthia Sanchez said, not sure which leg bothered her most. “This is Gilroy. We used to be the underdogs. Now we are top dogs and we have to keep it that way.”
Gilroy manufactured the initial scoring chances Friday, but was caught down numbers on a counter attack. Salinas’ Melissa Chin dribbled into the box challenged all the while by GHS senior Monique Barragan, whose slide tackle was deemed a foul by the referee. The Cowboys were awarded a penalty kick and Katie Chin converted the try in the 10th minute to put the Cowboys up 1-0.
Sanchez and the Mustangs (12-6-2 overall, 10-1-1 TCAL) countered right back three minutes later. Gilroy was given a free kick 35 yards from the net. Sanchez’s effort went top shelf for the equalizer.
Maggie Trigo-Rocha headed home a corner kick offering from Taylor Slattery in the 22nd minute, nestling the ball just inside the far post for a 2-1 GHS cushion.
Sanchez keyed a 2-on-1 breakaway with Morgan Rogers, who collected the pass, settled herself inside the box and beat the keeper far post in the 32nd minute.
“We watched a clip from Miracle on Ice and the speech pumped us up,” Trigo-Rocha said, attempting to paraphrase some of coach Herb Brooks’ pregame speech he delivered to the 1980 US Olympic ice hockey team prior to its gold medal game. “Today was our day. We kept our head in the game and blocked everything else around us out.”
Both teams are headed to the Central Coast Section playoffs, and each will find out where they fall in the brackets Saturday afternoon.