It was déjà vu for the Gilroy High field hockey team in its opening match of the Central Coast Section playoffs. Matched up against Willow Glen—the Mustangs defeated the Rams in the very first match of the season—Gilroy once again found itself down a goal. After a somewhat lackluster first half, the Mustangs found their rhythm to overtake Willow Glen 2-1 on Oct. 29.
Jenessa Pompa and Audrey Larson scored the goals for the Mustangs, whose season five days later in a 3-1 loss to St. Ignatius. Against Willow Glen, it was a tale of two halves for Gilroy, which couldn’t generate much offensively in the first half before finding its mojo in the final 30 minutes. Utilizing crisp passing and strong runs, the Mustangs scored the tiebreaking goal when Larson—who was stationed in front of the Willow Glen cage—alertly pounced on a deflection to put one in the cage.
Teammate Bella Domingues unleashed a powerful shot from just inside the right sideline that deflected off of a Willow Glen player before Larson took the rebound and shot it past the goalie for the game-winner with 8 minutes, 46 seconds remaining.
“The ball went off the leg of a defender and I was right there to shoot it in,” Larson said. “I was in the right spot.”
Was she ever. Larson has a propensity to score proficiently in the postseason, and she made her presence felt with a number of strong runs toward the Willow Glen goal that created scoring opportunities for the team. At the beginning of her freshman year, Larson wasn’t comfortable with her game awareness. Over time, however, Larson has developed into a strong all-around player.
“I was always super nervous freshman year because I always felt like I had to prove myself,” Larson said. “I had no idea where I had to be in terms of tipping, but fortunately I had good teammates and coach Adam (Gemar) would show me where to go in relation to the keeper and other players. After that, it was learning to keep your stick down and putting it all together.”
After Willow Glen scored the match’s first goal 6 ½ minutes into the second half, Gilroy got the equalizer when Pompa and Korynn Yslava connected on a beautiful play. Yslava was all the way near the right sideline when she delivered a hard shot to the front of the Willow Glen cage area. The ball landed on the stick of Pompa, who deflected the ball off her stick—a bang-bang play that happened in rapid-fire fashion—and into the goal with 18:05 left to play.
It was a superb pass followed by an equally impressive display of stick work. Kelly Nebesnick had another outstanding game, often controlling the flow of play on the left seam. Nebesnick used her all-around skills and determination to hold onto the ball and give the Mustangs a decent time of possession advantage in the second half.
Despite the loss, Gilroy had another terrific season. The Mustangs finished 17-3, including a perfect 11-0 mark to run away with the Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division championship.