For 60 intense minutes, the Christopher High field hockey team played Mitty to a standstill.
The teams took turns with the possession time throughout, and even though the Cougars were edged 1-0 in the Central Coast Section playoff championship match at Valley Christian on Nov. 12, coach Dani Hemeon knew she and her team could hold their heads high.
“We were right there (in position to get the tying goal) which is what I’m so proud about,” she said. “I told the girls if we had two more minutes, who knows what would’ve happened.”
Hemeon had good reason to feel that way, as the Cougars, who finished the season 17-7-1 in reaching their first-ever section final, applied their heaviest pressure of the game in the final minutes of play.
Mitty (20-2-1), which scored the only goal of the game off a short corner three minutes into the second quarter, utilized its ultra-tough defense to severely hamper Christopher’s ability to put any quality shots on goal in the first three quarters.
In that time, CHS didn’t register a single short corner. However, CHS earned four short corners in the final quarter, three coming in the final four minutes in rapid-fire fashion. The best CHS scoring chance came when Katie Garrison unloaded a rocket shot from the top of the circle, but the Mitty goalie made an outstanding kick save to prevent the tying goal.
“I thought that shot was going in,” Hemeon said. “That was a great save. Mitty is a great team and I have so much respect for them and I love the way they play the game. I loved that we played them in the final and again, kudos to them for such a great game and great season. It was also a great season for us, a great finale.”
That’s because having graduated a half-dozen starters off last year’s team that reached the CCS semifinals, the Cougars entered this season with a bunch of newcomers which always takes a while for things to coalesce.
“At the beginning of the season with such a new group of starters, it took time to work the kinks out, but it was exactly what I hoped for as everything clicked at the right time for us,” Hemeon said. “I’m so proud of the girls for winning four straight CCS games and playing so well the last stretch of the season. And to put a great product out there on the field, today my heart is very happy.”
Unlike last year, when they graduated six senior starters, this year’s team will only graduate three: Cloey Turiello, Emma Davis and Carlie Silva. Although the trio will be sorely missed as they were stalwarts in the program, losing three starters off a title-appearance team is considered a low number.
“We’re very young,” Hemeon said. “We’ve got a couple of juniors, a couple of sophomores, we start two freshmen. So we’ll be back and eventually in the future I know the fire has been lit and the girls know they can play with the best of the best. I hope the field hockey community knows—if they didn’t know before—that Christopher is someone to be reckoned with for sure.”
With projected returners Garrison, Caitlynn Holt, Alexa Booth, Dominique Flores, Sophie Gonzalez, Kaitlyn Nguyen, Danica Lopez, Laurel Lopez and Ella Miura, the team will be poised to make a return trip to the championship match in 2023.
So will Gilroy, which also graduates just three senior starters off this year’s team that reached the semifinals.
“Two great teams in our little town which is so amazing,” Hemeon said. “Who would’ve thought way back when that Gilroy would be a hotbed for field hockey. But thanks to the Gemars—you have to give them credit—they started it all. And now here we are two teams in the semifinals and finals, so it’s really awesome.”
Hemeon completed her eighth season with CHS and has elevated the program to newfound heights. She credits coaches like Gilroy’s Adam Gemar and Mitty’s Justina Williams for showing how to run a consistently solid program.
Afterward, Hemeon said she loves the job so much she’d like to be at CHS “forever.” The school no doubt feels the same way.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]