Deja Jimenez wasn’t going to be denied. With the Live Oak High field hockey team battling Branham in a golden goal situation, the junior forward unleashed a shot from the top of the semi-circle that bounced off the pads of the Branham goalkeeper.
Undeterred, Jimenez pounced on the rebound and connected on a backhand shot to give the Acorns a 2-1 win in overtime on Wednesday in a Blossom Valley League match. The play perfectly synopsized Live Oak’s season, as the coaches and players have had to do double duty and remain vigilant to see the season through.
The Acorns earned their second win in seven matches, but coach Sarah Porras said being able to field a junior varsity team this season—with the help of a half-dozen varsity players who play for both squads—has been paramount for the entire program.
Out of the nine schools in the BVAL with field hockey teams, three of them are not fielding JV squads this season. The Acorns were in danger of joining that group because it didn’t have enough players to field a team. However, several members of the varsity team said they would be willing to do double duty playing for both squads.
“It’s really been a team effort this year just to keep our program alive, so I’m really proud of them,” Porras said. “We really wanted to keep the JV program alive for the benefit of the program next season, which is coming up fast. That one year of playing experience (for new players) really makes a huge difference, so you don’t want to lose your JV program or it puts you in a bad position in the future.”
Already short-handed, the Acorns weren’t even at full strength against Branham because a couple of the varsity players were on spring break vacation with their families. Jimenez and senior Bella Fiorentino took charge, with Jimenez scoring both of the team’s goals and Fiorentino—a senior center midfielder—making plays literally all over the field.
“Bella plays a really important position for us and was everywhere making things happen,” Porras said. “She was also back playing defense, up front trying to score goals and doing it all. And Deja really takes charge at the forward position and does whatever it takes to score.”
That was evident on the game-winning goal which came with 3 minutes, 53 seconds left in the seven minute, 7-on-7 sudden death overtime period. Porras said this was one of the team’s better performances because it displayed crisp passing, which meant more players touched the ball on every possession.
“Branham usually has a very good team so this is a big win for us,” Porras said.
Senior Brooke Davis has played consistently well this season, as she is vital to the team for her stick-handling ability and ball-control skills which helps Live Oak maintain possession. Senior Emma Courtney—though she was away for this game—has also been one of the team’s top impact players. Junior Adrianna Miranda has played goalie in every game for both the varsity and JV teams this season.
And freshman Hannah Lara, a starter on the JV team, started the varsity match against Branham as the team was short-handed. Given this is the first year of Lara taking up the sport, Porras has been thoroughly impressed with Lara’s play.
“She played almost the whole game which was a pretty big deal for her to get that experience,” Porras said.
The JV match started minutes after the completion of the varsity game, meaning several of the varsity players like Jimenez received a short break before going back out on the field. Although it can be physically exhausting, the players doing double duty have embraced the challenge.
“Their season was cut in half, so for them it’s like, ‘We’re going to make it up in half the time,’” Porras said. “Just being able to be out and have that camaraderie between people again is such a good thing. The girls are so happy just being able to play regardless of what the outcome or what the win-loss record looks like.”