It’s a testament to the Live Oak High girls lacrosse team that it finds itself in prime position to repeat as Blossom Valley Athletic League champions.
The Acorns have dealt with illness and multiple injuries to key players this season, yet they improved to 6-0 in Mount Hamilton Division play after an impressive 11-4 win over Sobrato on April 4. The Acorns’ next game against Pioneer on April 18 will go a long way in determining if they will run the table again after they went 10-0 in league a year ago.
“We’ve kind of had to adjust every single game, but the girls are doing absolutely incredible,” Acorns coach Jordan Evanger said. “We’re doing pretty great. The program is growing and that’s all I really wanted for it, to teach the girls a brand new sport.”
Live Oak won despite not having the services of its leading scorer, Emma Ghione, who suffered a knee injury recently. Another standout, Avery Smith, had to depart with 6 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half after sustaining a blow to the head.
“Avery had a concussion [earlier in the season] and had literally just got back,” Evanger said.
Fortunately for the Acorns, they have depth and that showed as freshman Amelya Forbis scored a match-high five goals and Katia Vaillancourt had three scores. Forbis displayed tremendous shotmaking ability, scoring on wraparounds and bounce shots. Vaillancourt set the tone from the outset, running 30 yards off the opening faceoff before unleashing a strong shot on goal.
Sobrato kept things close longer than expected, trailing 2-1 with 11:41 left in the opening half. However, Live Oak started to attack the net and create prime scoring chances including several free shots from the 8- and 12-meter arcs, and went into halftime with a 6-2 lead.
The Bulldogs, whose lone league win came against Gilroy High, have been led by midfielder Dana Gampon, though she wasn’t able to play vs. Live Oak.
“Dana has been pretty key on the team,” Bulldogs coach Celia Moreno said. “I’d like to think everyone has a certain role they contribute to the team. The players who were here, I felt like they performed really well, they held it down for the team.”
Sobrato received two goals from Grace Lennon and one each from Chloe Gallipeo and Riley Ruiz. Gallipeo is in her first year on the team, coming over as a standout soccer player. Gallipeo looked like a natural, making several long runs and keeping possession throughout the game.
“She’s been a great addition to the team,” Moreno said. “She works well with the girls and I really like having her on the team. I just wish I had her all the other years.”
Danelia Cassidy and Chloe Claytor have also been key for the Bulldogs, who lack the program numbers of Live Oak but play with a similar spirit and passion.
“I’m impressed with Live Oak’s turnout,” Moreno said. “[Numbers-wise] it’s been a little tough for us, but I think we’re doing really well. I think a lot of the nerves from last year have been replaced with excitement this year.”
Sobrato was on its third goalie of the season vs. Live Oak, as Hailey Kissee was making her first-ever appearance in goal. Even though Kissee is still learning on the fly, she made a couple of nice point-blank saves in the second half that prevented the score from ballooning further.
“Hailey stepped up, she did amazing,” Moreno said. “She made some great saves.”
Sobrato lost its first two goalies to other sports.
“It’s definitely a challenge we’ve faced this year and something we’ve been dealing with,” Moreno said. “Almost all these girls play another sport, and lacrosse is kind of like their offseason sport. They’re just getting introduced to it.”
While the same holds true for a lot of girls lacrosse teams, Live Oak is ahead of the rest of the BVAL due to its sheer numbers and athleticism. They have quality midfielders in Kaitlyn Silva, Isabella Espinoza and Vaillancourt, a group that is super aggressive and wins the majority of the draws.
Evanger said defenders Izzy Jeffrey and Rian Henderson have stepped up and made a sizable impact with their aggressiveness and playing their roles well. There are actually three Jeffreys on the team this season: Izzy, a junior, is sisters with freshman Emma and their cousin, Julia, is a sophomore.
“The Jeffreys are definitely a triple threat we talk about,” Evanger said. “Emma is brand new to the sport this year, but has definitely picked it up a lot.”
Julia Jeffrey and Megan Cahill Mallory also scored goals vs. Sobrato. Amid injuries and getting new players up to speed, Live Oak has been able to adjust on the fly to run out to a 6-0 league record.
“Probably 70% of our team is brand new as you get every lacrosse season,” Evanger said. “So, we have a fair amount of girls still learning the game, but I feel like a lot of our girls picked it up really quickly and we’re kind of charging forward with that.”