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March 26, 2023
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With a change in culture, Los Gatos High girls soccer team thrives

Coach Jessica Ingram and the players on this year’s Los Gatos High girls soccer team talked about changing the culture within the program. 

Mission accomplished. 

The Wildcats’ tremendous season continued in the most thrilling fashion as they beat Salinas High in penalty kicks (4-2) after the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 through 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime. The No. 3 seed Wildcats (15-3-2) advance to a Division I semifinal match at No. 2 seed Sequoia High of Redwood City Feb. 22 at 5pm. 

It’s been quite a rapid turnaround. Last season, the Wildcats finished 1-16 overall and 1-11 in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League’s De Anza Division. This year, Los Gatos went a near-perfect 11-0-1 to win the SCVAL’s lower El Camino Division championship. 

“There’s just so much pride we’re feeling right now,” standout junior Caitlyn Simons said after the team’s 4-1 title-clinching win over Wilcox High on Feb. 14. “Being here right now after winning almost every single [league] game and just knowing we’ve worked so hard to turn our culture around, it’s an amazing feeling and I am so proud of everyone here because everyone worked so hard for this.”

Culture can mean different things to different people, but in Los Gatos’ situation, Simons said the team’s culture change revolves around the increased trust the players have for each other. 

“We had team chemistry last year, but this year I would bet my life on any of these girls because I know they always have my back,” said Simons, a UC Santa Barbara-commit. “Our willingness to work together and count on each other, just knowing that, it turns the results around.”

The Wildcats entered the Wilcox match needing just a draw to clinch the league championship outright. Instead, they showed their superiority against a team that was responsible for Los Gatos’ only tie in division action, a scoreless draw in the league opener on Dec. 15. 

Since then, the Wildcats have improved and they certainly showed it in the rematch with Wilcox. 

“We weren’t happy with tying them last time because we knew we could’ve won that game,” Simons said. “So to come out with a win this time really helped us achieve most of our goals this season. We have a lot of seniors and they knew this was their last league game, and we wanted to go out with a bang.”

Brynn Gibson scored two goals and Leila Pozas and Sam Elliott had one goal each in the Wilcox game, which showed the Wildcats’ skill, depth and cohesiveness. They often strung together passes with remarkable precision, leading to several great scoring opportunities and a dominant time of possession. 

“The girls have grown a lot this season in their possession and being in control and composed in their game,” Ingram said. “I think that plays a huge part in our development and success this season. Being disciplined defensively and organized are key qualities for them as well.”

Gibson and Pozas connected on a couple of give-and-go sequences and the two put the ball on each other’s foot throughout, with Pozas assisting on both of Gibson’s goals. Simons and Malia Yamamoto—the team’s other Division I commit—helped Los Gatos control the possession by being strong on the ball and passing it before defenders could contest things. 

Pozas seemingly was involved in every Los Gatos shot, whether it was passing to a teammate that led to a shot or taking it herself to the penalty area. Elliott was a force in the attacking third, often making strong runs on the flanks. 

Gibson was equally active and displayed her tremendous finishing ability. Macie Yannoni, Sahara Melinauskas, Marissa Volpe, Carly Enneking, Kate Gruetter, Elena White and goalkeepers Cora Bryant and Emily Duvall were also some of the players who played key roles vs. Wilcox and throughout the season. 

Ingram said not too many things beats seeing the joy on the players’ faces after a dominant performance to clinch a league title. 

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I’ve watched this group of girls come together and buy into everything I’ve asked them to do, and because of that they’re the reason why they’ve gotten this far. And it’s even better when you see things click for them.”

Ingram said the entire culture shift has enveloped the junior varsity team as well. 

“The nice thing is we came into the season looking to change the culture and focus on what we wanted the players to be a part of, and because of that I think the players from the JV team will be solid moving into the varsity next year,” Ingram said. “The varsity team did a fantastic job of setting the standard and making sure we go forward in everything we do.”

Sam Elliott controls the ball during the Wildcats’ 4-1 win over Wilcox on Feb. 14. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected]


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