Moments after the Live Oak field hockey team beat Sobrato 4-0 on Wednesday in the season-finale for both teams, Acorns coach Sarah Porras and Sobrato’s Madeline Peterson both knew it wouldn’t be too long before they would be back on the field leading the team in conditioning sessions and ultimately official practice.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the fall sports teams into a long off-season. The upshot of that is now those same teams can look forward to taking the field again for their first official match in 4 ½ months.
“We’re really excited for the returning players who will be back in the fall,” Porras said. “It was important for us to keep the JV program alive, which will help us a lot for next year as well.”
Said Peterson: “If we had a longer season, there definitely would’ve been more growth and improvement. So I’m ready for next year. We just gotta start working—the sooner the better.”
Both schools will graduate a solid senior class; however, they’ll have plenty of returning players who have shown they can make an impact. In juniors Deja Jimenez and Alexa Villafranca, the Acorns will return two players who were responsible for three of the team’s goals against Sobrato.
Jimenez is a potent goal scorer with tremendous scoring instincts, while Villafranca has developed a knack for being at the right place at the right time when it comes to goal-scoring opportunities.
“Alexa really blossomed this year,” Porras said. “She stepped up and played a really important role for us. She’s really good at tipping and just stealing goals from others, and that’s awesome.”
Courtney, a senior, scored the fourth goal with a strong shot off a loose ball in front of the Sobrato goal. Courtney has been rather busy in the last month, when on certain days she did soccer practice before school and field hockey and softball practice in the afternoon/evening.
“Emma is your go-to girl because you know she is going to get it done,” Porras said. “She’s a big player for us at center mid so I was happy to see her get a goal in her last game.”
A combined nine girls—Adriana Johnson, Gianna Vallez, Hannah Lara, Jordan Lara, Sydney Stutzman, Adrianna Miranda, Bella Altamirano, Courtney and Jimenez—from Live Oak’s varsity and JV teams did double duty in the last month as at times they had field hockey and softball practice on the same day. The same for Porras, who is Live Oak’s softball coach.
Porras said the field hockey team accomplished its goals in the season-finale, including getting every single player a couple of minutes of game action and keeping most of the seniors in the entire time.
“We played great and had a good time,” Porras said. “It’s always fun when the girls get to play their rival.”
Even though Sobrato finished with just one victory, Peterson was proud of her players for improving, playing as a cohesive unit and overcoming obstacles along the way apart from Covid-19.
“We did have a few hiccups with our field and trying to figure out where we were practicing and who was going to practice was one of our biggest challenges,” she said. “Once we were able to start practicing at the Sports Complex, we finally got an advantage which gave our girls a chance to improve their stick skills and overall game.”
Peterson praised goalie Crystal Banh for stepping up and playing a position she had never done before entering this season.
“Crystal did a great job and was in the cage every game,” Peterson said. “Regardless of the score, she kept her head up.”
Peterson described Kate Mandrell, a center midfielder, as a “go-getter who makes a tremendous impact,” while Carly Jo Thomas, Madeline Arnott and Hannah Werkema all were reliable players and consistent from an effort standpoint. Peterson said senior defender Katie Lang was the “heart” of the team, and fellow senior Merissa Souza was equally encouraging from a vocal standpoint.
“She would always be talking trying to keep the morale of the team up,” Peterson said. “That really helped especially in some of the games where we didn’t necessarily play our best.”
Senior Vanessa Niebla played multiple positions and always showed a desire to learn and improve.
“Everyone played well together, and there wasn’t any bad energy,” Peterson said. “We didn’t necessarily win every game, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at them. They always kept their heads up and always had a good attitude about it. As a coach, that’s all I could ask for.”