Big game tested Valley Christian charged into Gilroy High to take on a Mustangs squad with something to prove. With the end of the season glaring at both schools, something had to give – though neither team conceded much in a shoulder-to-shoulder match.
The ninth-seeded Warriors scored midway through the first half and hung onto that slim lead through the rest of a fast, physical, 80-minute, 120-yard tug-of-war, eliminating No. 8 GHS 1-0 in the first round of the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs Wednesday night.
“They did everything they had to do,” GHS head coach Jose Hernandez said. “I told them if they gave all their effort and we lost, that’s it, we lost. The effort was there. (Valley Christian is) very good team, but our opportunities were there.”
The Warriors (11-6-4) entered the CCS soiree as defending Division II champions, and after losing just two starting seniors from that team, finished fourth in the West Catholic Athletic League this season. The Mustangs, six-time Tri-County Athletic league champions, were looking for their first playoff victory.
“I’m happy with the way we all played. We all played with intensity,” GHS senior defender Monique Barragan said. “I’d rather lose by the way we played right now than losing with everyone not caring and treating it like another game.”
The 1-0 loss is just the latest in postseason almosts for GHS. Last season, the Mustangs (12-7-2) fell to Woodside in penalty kicks.
“I thought it was a good game. A lot of the kids (on both teams) play club together, so there was some familiarity there,” Valley Christian head coach Jolene Fugate said.
Colby Carson went far post to provide the Warriors with their 1-0 lead in the 21st minute. Carson, sent in on a handful of deep offerings, threatened the net on a few occasions in the first 20 minutes prior to cashing in. GHS goalie Katrina Carter was true to the test, and the freshman, making just her second start in net, nabbed five saves in the first half to keep the Mustangs afloat.
“I felt like we didn’t finish our opportunities in the first half,” Fugate said. “I feel like we probably could have had some other (goals) but their goal keeper made some good saves for them.”
At the opposite end of the pitch, keeper Alexis Smith anchored the Warriors effort in preserving the cushion as the Mustangs increased their offensive pressure in response to surrendering the game’s lone goal.
In the 25th minute, Maggie Trigo-Rocha led Morgan Rogers on a run into the box, however, Smith was there to interrupt the proceedings before Rogers could get a foot on the ball. One minute later, Taylor Slattery went on a 30-yard sprint down the sideline, sent a cross to Cynthia Sanchez, whose shot seemed destined for the back of the net. Smith, though, had position for the save. Another Sanchez delivery nicked the crossbar toward the end of the first half.
“We played a little bit with our nerves, but when we calmed down there was a big difference,” Hernandez said. “We didn’t stop. We had a number of opportunities at the end of the first half, at the beginning of the second half,” Hernandez said. “They just didn’t go.”
The Warriors, comfortable enough with the advantage, hunkered down in their defensive zone in the second half and rode out the Mustangs resilient push.
“This is the end of the season for one of us, so when we felt their momentum, and we talked about this at halftime, when it got to that point, we all had to play defense,” Fugate said.
Smith made four second half saves.
Valley Christian moves into the quarterfinals to face No. 1 Mitty on Saturday.