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Bounces go against Granite Bay as season ends too soon

Loss to Oak Ridge in section semifinal closes successful run
By: Kurt Johnson, senior sports editor
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A single bounce of the ball one way or the other changes everything, and on Wednesday night inside Prairie City Stadium at Folsom High, it was one bounce that changed everything for two talented soccer teams. The night’s second Sac-Joaquin Section Division II girls soccer semifinal between Sierra Foothill League champion Granite Bay and Sierra Valley Conference runner-up Oak Ridge was played at a fast pace from start to finish. The contest was scoreless at the half, and remained that way until the second stanza’s 14th minute. Oak Ridge’s Jessica Domenichelli created an opportunity at that point and cashed in on a fortuitous bounce to provide the game’s lone tally as the Trojans knocked off Granite Bay 1-0. The junior forward raced past the Grizzly defense and then sent a strong shot towards the goal. The shot connected with the post, but rebounded back to Domenichelli and she made the second chance pay off, sending the ball into the back of the net. “Sometimes it comes down to the way the ball bounces,” said Granite Bay coach Chris Roberts. “That goal was not the way I wanted my season to end. What are the odds that the deflected ball lands right back at the feet of the girl that took the initial shot? Credit to Oak Ridge for being in the game, playing well enough to be in the position to win, and getting it done. If we had played the first half like we did the second half, we would be playing on Saturday.” The final carom was not the first positive break that went in the direction of the Trojans. Just 10 minutes earlier, a strong run by Granite Bay’s Tasha Hartford deep into the Oak Ridge defense ended when a crossing ball was nudged over the goal line by a Trojan defender. The ball was inches outside the goal post, narrowly missing what would have been an own-goal and a Grizzly advantage. The Trojans were strong out of the gate, maintaining possession of the ball and keeping constant pressure on the Granite Bay defense. The Grizzlies were on the defensive at the outset, and relied uncharacteristically on the counterattack as they scrambled on defense. “We let Oak Ridge put their stamp on the game in the first half instead of coming out and dictating tempo and playing style,” Roberts said. “The first half was not the style of soccer that we're accustomed to playing. The girls, at halftime, were very upset with themselves for not taking advantage early.” Behind the leadership of Rachel Mercik and with strong performances by Domenichelli, Cori Davis, Geneve Dromensk and Amy Hahn, Oak Ridge took control of the midfield and established a strong tone early. Once the Grizzlies got settled in, this became a game of powerful back-and-forth attacks that was clearly going to come down to a single missed opportunity, or by someone taking advantage of that one scoring chance. Granite Bay had more chances to score after intermission, but was unable to crease the net despite some strong play through the midfield. Sarah Kendall, Colleen Myers, Christy Cooper and Hartford had a battle on their hands all night long, and they weathered it well. “Colleen Myers played an outstanding game,” Roberts said. “She brought energy to our team and consistently was first to the ball. Many times last night I saw her come from her spot to cover for one of her teammates or to win a loose ball.” “Our transition game, at least in the first half, was non-existent. I was pleased with it in the second half however,” Roberts added. “(In the first half) we were forcing things down the middle. When we started finding feet and playing the ball wide to our outside mids, they were able to create more scoring opportunities for our forwards. My stats have us at 12 shots on goal to their three in the second half. Quite a turnaround from the first half.” Granite Bay showed off its great depth of talent with some fine play from a number of key reserves, particularly on the defensive end, where Anna Richter and Kayla Karlsson both delivered in support of the starting unit. Seniors Christina Keady and Lynsi Anderson were solid as usual, while Chelsea Putnam and Caresse Little provided some outstanding moments. “I thought that Anna Richter played amazing,” Roberts said. “Once she came on in the first 15 minutes of the game, she never came off. Our defense had the ball shoved down their throats for most of the first half and for them to weather the storm until halftime was incredible.” As it turned out, the strong effort from this talented Granite Bay squad was just not enough on this night as Oak Ridge played as well as it could play, and took advantage of its chance to put the game away in regulation time. “(Goalkeeper) Keslie Cooper had a great game as well,” Roberts said. “If not for the fortuitous bounce for the goal, she was working on a solid shutout and I liked our chances going into a PK shootout.” The win for Oak Ridge (12-2-3) knocks out one of the tourney favorites as Granite Bay (17-3) saw its season end much earlier than it had expected. “I am so proud of this team and what it has accomplished this season,” Roberts said. “I have never enjoyed coaching a high school team more than I have this team. From top to bottom, this team is comprised of some special young women and some extremely talented soccer players. Teams like this, moments like this, don't come around very often.” The Grizzlies, who finished 3-10-3 just one year ago with virtually the same team completed an amazing turnaround season as they were unbeaten in SFL play at 12-0 and 17-3 overall this year. “This accomplishment goes to the players,” Roberts said. “They bought into what I was I was telling them. They made it happen. If there is one thing I have told my players this year that I hope them remember, it's to enjoy these moments.” The Trojans look to extend the SVC hold on the DII title to seven seasons when they take on SFL runner-up Roseville at 2 p.m. Saturday in the section championship game at Prairie City Stadium. For Granite Bay, as Kendall and an outstanding group of seniors moves on to bigger things, Roberts knows he has some serious talent coming back next year, and he saw signs of that on Wednesday night. “My two freshman last night, have me excited for the future,” he said. Kayla (Karlsson) and Christy Cooper played inspired soccer.”