The loud thump of the ball hitting the cage backstop was sweet music to the Los Gatos High field hockey team’s ears.
That’s because it was Clare Torres’ rocket for a shot that went in to send the top-seed Wildcats to a riveting 2-1 overtime win over Mitty in a Central Coast Section playoff semifinal Wednesday at Valley Christian High.
Los Gatos (16-0-2) aims to complete an undefeated season and win an ongoing record 17th section championship when it takes on Santa Clara Valley Athletic League A-division member St. Ignatius in the championship match Saturday at Valley Christian at 7pm.
Los Gatos won the SCVAL championship and SI finished in second. The two teams have already squared off twice this season, with Los Gatos winning 3-0 on Sept. 14 and the second game ending in a 2-2 tie on Oct. 10. Against Mitty, Torres made her presence felt by being strong with the ball and unleashing potent shots throughout.
Nowhere was that more apparent than on the game-winning goal, when, positioned just inside the top of the circle, she settled the ball, pivoted and then launched an absolute laser past the Mitty goalie just three minutes into the first sudden-death overtime period.
“I knew Clare could do it,” Wildcats coach Henry Reyes said. “She ended up being clutch. She took the ball and went to the good side and she let that thing go, and the rest is history. Pretty exciting to see.”
Torres had to come off the field in the fourth quarter after a painful bout of leg cramps had her laying on the field for a couple of minutes.
“She shook off the cramp, came back and helped us have some strong possession time [in overtime],” Reyes said.
Indeed, it was all Los Gatos in the extra session, as Mitty barely had an opportunity to make a serious run at the Los Gatos goal before things ended.
“In 7-on-7, I think we had a good understanding of what it was we were going to need to do,” Reyes said. “We had gone over the possibility of what would happen, who would have to be where and what we could do, so I think the game plan worked.”
Despite dominating the possession time in the first period, Los Gatos found itself trailing 1-0 after Mitty scored on a devastating counter attack two minutes into the second period. However, with the Wildcats on the man advantage, Caitlin Okonkwo got the equalizer on a rebound shot just two minutes later which proved to be huge because the Monarchs enjoyed their best run of play in the second and third quarters.
Los Gatos controlled the action, producing a whopping 17 penalty corners to Mitty’s four. However, the Wildcats had all sorts of issues on the penalty corner advantage and also missed a penalty stroke with 5 minutes, 47 seconds left in regulation.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, their deficiency on penalty corners didn’t come back to haunt them. That’s because players like Okonkwo, Torres, Alexa Musser, Ellie White, Aanya Gupta, Leaya Cleary and Mckenzie Powell—just to name several—were in sync and battling hard.
Possessing tremendous speed, Cleary is downright dangerous and created some prime scoring opportunities by outrunning Mitty players to the ball on counters and passes downfield. Goalie Keira Lin made a tremendous save midway through the second period, coming out of the goal mouth in the second period for a kick save that thwarted a golden Mitty scoring chance.