With a riveting 2-1 overtime win in the Central Coast Section playoffs on Nov. 6, the Christopher High field hockey team made history, earning its first semifinal berth in program history.
In the midst of their best season ever, the Cougars (16-1-2) play the section’s premier program in Los Gatos (14-1), which has won twice as many championships than any other school. And yet, CHS has proven itself to be one of the very elite squads in the section dating back to the abbreviated Covid spring season, when it finished 8-0.
Coach Dani Hemeon knows the team faces a huge task—the game will be played at Saratoga High on Wednesday at 4:30pm—but is confident it has the talent and work rate to win it all.
“We’re excited to play Wednesday and I think these girls always have a chance to win no matter who they play,” Hemeon said. “I’ll put my money on them every time.”
Things couldn’t have been more exciting at the finish in the quarterfinal contest against St. Ignatius, which, despite being dominated in time of possession, had a chance to steal the win from CHS. However, Cloey Turiello came up clutch again, scoring just two minutes into the extra session and igniting a CHS celebration.
Turiello, who scored three goals in the Cougars’ 5-0 win over Homestead in the previous round, sent a strong shot to the St. Ignatius goal that went under the stick of her sister Skyler Turiello before the ball slipped past the goalie. Standout midfielder Taylor Mejia scored the team’s initial goal in the first quarter.
The Cougars had a significant time of possession advantage and produced eight short corners to SI’s three spanning the second half and two minutes of overtime, a testament to their dominance. But they found themselves in a precarious position in the sudden-death OT, where anything could happen.
“Overall, we were able to hold onto the ball long enough and we had a lot of opportunities,” Hemeon said. “I wish we could’ve put a few more away, but I’m very proud of the girls—they deserved the win. It’s huge. We’ve never been to this point and the girls have been working I feel like since June of last year when they didn’t have a (fall) season. They’ve just been working, working, working, and now it’s all come to fruition.”
For Mia Katsuyoshi and her teammates, the ending was surreal.
“The game didn’t feel real and I’m still thinking about it,” she said. “I’ve been watching the video over and over and it’s exciting that the team played well for the duration of the game. When we went into overtime, the whole team was saying we wanted it more and kept on repeating it. We were motivated to win and made sure our last practice Friday wasn’t going to be our last of the season.”
In addition to the aforementioned players, Carlie Silva, Korina Rodeo, Miranda Tuz, Emma Davis, Aesha Sandoval and Katie Garrison all played instrumental roles in the victory. The Cougars’ only loss this season came at the hands of St. Francis, which plays Leigh in the other semifinal. CHS did a nice job of playing a little quicker knowing it had to against a team like SI.
“We knew SI was going to pressure us really hard and as we keep advancing, all the teams will,” Hemeon said. “So our game plan is to do what we normally do, but try to release the ball a little quicker on offense, give passes quicker and play three touch hockey. For the most part, we executed that.”