Sobrato goalkeeper Kate Mendrall deflects a shot away from Live Oak's Karlie Lema in a May 4 game. Photo by Bryant Hammer.

In the last couple of years, the Live Oak and Sobrato girls soccer teams have been regular participants in the Central Coast Section playoffs, which is a testament to the amount of talent in Morgan Hill. Although the Acorns and Bulldogs are both having atypical seasons from a won-loss standpoint this season, they’re making the most of it. 

And whenever the crosstown rivals play, it’s always a notable event. For the second time in as many meetings, Sobrato got the best of Live Oak, the latest being a 1-0 win on May 4. The Bulldogs improved to 4-5 in Blossom Valley League Mount Hamilton Division play, while Live Oak dropped to 1-7. Both teams have been battling injuries, a byproduct of athletes being able to play club and for the high school team at the same time. 

“That takes a toll on our team and any other teams that have girls playing club,” Bulldogs coach Miguel Gutierrez said. “We’re seeing a lot of injuries from every high school, and we just have to play with what we have.”

Because Sobrato plays in an A league, it is holding out hope a strong finish will be enough to get them into the playoffs. The Bulldogs are starting to play better and with the talent on their roster, even the top teams would have to be wary of playing them in a knockout scenario. 

One reason for that is sophomore goalkeeper Kate Mendrall, who made a number of spectacular saves to prevent the Acorns from scoring. Playing the angles superbly, Mendrall denied standout forward Karlie Lema on a couple of occasions. The Cal-bound Lema was playing her first game of the season as she was recovering from an injury. 

Lema showed why she’s a Division I talent, as she made things happen nearly every time she touched the ball. 

However, Sobrato’s defense was solid, with Gutierrez crediting freshman Chloe Brown for shadowing Lema. When Lema got to the penalty area, Mendrall was there to thwart her potent shots. 

“Kate made some amazing saves against Karlie and saved us in the back,” Gutierrez said. 

“You have to give credit to the Sobrato keeper,” Acorns coach Tony Vasquez said. “I thought she made some amazing saves.”

Freshman Ella Thomas scored the game’s only goal in the 60th minute. Live Oak had the ball on its end near the right sideline when Sobrato kept on pressing, forcing the Acorns to eventually pass back to its outstanding goalkeeper, Emma Courtney, whose kick ricocheted off a hard-charging Thomas and straight into the goal. 

“You see it sometimes in the professional level and in the club level, where if teams put a little high pressure, things like that can happen,” Vasquez said.

Gutierrez said Thomas has a knack for creating scoring opportunities. 

“Ella scored a similar goal the last time we played Live Oak,” he said. “Her pressure is key for us, and she made things happen again. She entered as a substitution and did great things for us.”

Said Vasquez: “Our goalie is special and she’s done tremendous things for us. Even though she’s been playing softball longer, she plays with a lot of confidence as a soccer player. She just got caught, and it happens. But at the end of the day, it’s a part of soccer and we’ll learn from it.”

Despite being impacted by injuries, Sobrato has been able to hold steady because of a deep 22-player roster. 

“Our bench has been phenomenal in terms of the girls making sure they’re ready to go,” Gutierrez said. 

Whenever Sobrato controlled the ball for a sustained time, it was sophomore Linzee Clayton who was at the forefront of the action. Possessing deft dribbling skills and awareness, Clayton delivered pinpoint passes and was making plays all over the field. 

She also came close to scoring in the 66th minute, when she unleashed a one-timer that sailed just over the crossbar. The Freeman triplets—Hailey, Ashley and Taylor—have been key contributors along with Chloe Gallipeo, who Gutierrez said has been “one of our most consistent players.” Another sophomore, Sydney Nguyen, is one of the team’s top goal scorers. 

Prior to playing Live Oak, Sobrato was coming off a 1-0 loss to powerhouse Leigh, which beat the Bulldogs 7-1 to open the league season. The rematch shows just how far the Bulldogs have come. 

“That was one of the best games we’ve had this season,” Gutierrez said. “I think with CCS playoffs, anything is possible. We just keep telling the girls to keep fighting.”

Although the postseason isn’t a possibility for Live Oak, Vasquez is proud of his players for overcoming adversity with everything that’s happened in the last year. Bella Fiorentino has been a rock at defender, as has fellow senior Molly Newquist. Junior Athena Guevara returned from an injured ankle and played well, and Emily Funk and Grace Quadrini also have been impact players. 

Vasquez was happy to see Lema play again, as she is a once in a generation type talent. 

“It’s been special to watch Karlie for all of us,” he said. “As fans you automatically assume she’s going to score and when she doesn’t, she’s more disappointed in herself. I thought she played amazing, obviously, and it was important for her to have one more game where she could play with her teammates in the rivalry against Sobrato. It was a special moment for her.”

Molly Newquist looks to control the ball in the Acorns’ 1-0 loss to Sobrato. Photo by Bryant Hammer.
The Bulldogs’ Linzee Clayton makes her way upfield in the team’s 1-0 win over Live Oak. Photo by Bryant Hammer.
Bulldogs goalkeeper Kate Mendrall made several spectacular saves. Photo by Bryant Hammer.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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