Lady Grizzlies beat DO, get help to reach playoffs

Second half surge carries Granite Bay to big win
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Down a goal with its season on the line, the Granite Bay High girls soccer team delivered a stellar second half performance Thursday and reversed it fortunes. The Grizzlies came from behind to beat Del Oro 2-1 and when Oakmont upset Woodcreek by that same count later Thursday night, Granite Bay had a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs in hand. It was an amazing turn of events for a team that thought it had possibly lost its postseason chance two nights earlier with a disappointing loss at Rocklin. Coming into this contest, Del Oro, Granite Bay and Woodcreek were all tied for third place in the Sierra Foothill League. Because Woodcreek owned the tie-breakers, the winner of this battle also needed help from Oakmont to earn the third and final postseason berth from the league. Roseville and Rocklin had already locked up the No. 1 and No. 2 positions. “After Tuesday night, we knew what had to happen to get into the playoffs,” said Granite Bay coach Chris Roberts. “Our goal was to focus on Del Oro and not get too wrapped up in the ‘what ifs.’ We haven't had the ball bounce our way much this season. But that's soccer.” The contest did not start out looking very good for the Grizzlies. With a significant wind at their back during the first half, they were unable to capitalize. An apparent early goal was taken off the board when the referee ruled that Golden Eagle goalkeeper Casey Bell had her hand on the ball. That call seemed to take some of the energy from Granite Bay. “After Tuesday night's meltdown at Rocklin, I felt it was very important to strike first,” Roberts said. “I knew that the girls would respond better, be more focused and have more confidence if they scored first. And it looked that they had done that early on when there was a tussle in front of the box and the next thing I knew the ball was in the back of the net. The girls were celebrating, and to be honest I wasn't surprised that we scored from the way we were playing to that point. Then the referee called interference, that one of my players had knocked the ball loose from the keepers hands, and took the goal away and you could see some of the life come out of the team.” While Del Oro generated few scoring chances in either half, mostly working their opportunities in counterattack mode, the Lady Eagles’ defense was outstanding early. Led by senior Casey McTavitt, Del Oro turned back Granite Bay a number of times. It was McTavitt, sent forward on a Del Oro corner kick, that first lit up the scoreboard. A Teagan Seman cross found the Eagle defender about 12 yards out in front of the goal, and McTavitt did not miss, striking home a powerful volley to put Del Oro on top 1-0. “The goal that Del Oro scored was exactly the type of goal we've been giving up all season,” Roberts said. “Right before the corner kick, a Del Oro player snuck into the box unaccounted for and the ball was perfect to her and all she had to do was stick her foot out to knock it in. Great goal.There wasn't a Granite Bay player within five yards of her.” Maria Del Cruz had some strong attacking runs for Granite Bay late in the first half. The speedy striker got deep into the Golden Eagle zone on a number of occasions. The Grizzlies also had some chances on the strong play of Monica Tingley and the free kicks of Kayla Karlsson, but there was no scoring to be had. Down a goal and turned around to play into the stiff breeze, it was not looking good for Granite Bay after intermission. “Both teams did a good job playing small ball when the wind was in their face and clearing the ball early,” Roberts said. At halftime we made some adjustments. We went from a 3-4-3 to a 4-4-2. Strange given the fact that we needed more offense. However, I also knew that if we gave up another goal it was going to be difficult scoring three against Del Oro's good defense.” The more defensive approach actually played well against the Eagles’ second half alignment. “When we came out in the second half and I saw that Del Oro had dropped four or five into the defense and was willing to sit on a one goal advantage, even though they had the wind, I was optimistic and pointed it out to my team,” Roberts said. “We then were able to push up a central defender into the offense and that really helped control the midfield and add to the attack. Because Del Oro wasn't attacking we essentially had a 3-5-2 formation.” Six minutes into the second half, a little bit of a lucky bounce helped Granite Bay get the equalizer. An Alex Fidler cross that was moved along by Avery Hutchinson found junior Marin Peterson about six yards out in front of the goal. Peterson touched the ball towards the far post and it took a strange bounce between the pipes to tie the contest. It was Peterson’s first goal of the season. Midway through the half, Jodie Higgins found Anna Goddi 15 yards out, and the forward redirected a shot off of the bounce into the net to put the Grizzlies on top. Goddi was called up from the junior varsity when leading scorer Tasha Hartford saw her season ended by injury. As it got its offense untracked, Granite Bay continued to dominate with its amazing defense. Anna Richter, Morgan Geiger, Lindsay Nelson, Kayla Karlsson and Caresse Little all played a role on the back line for the Grizzlies in support of a solid effort by goalkeeper Keslie Cooper. The combination of the scoring and defensive play allowed Granite Bay to maintain complete control of the second half on its way to a huge win. Tingley was an outstanding playmaker when she was able to stay on the pitch as she battled blood on her leg. Erin Pellerin, Christy Cooper and Kati Fischer also provided solid effort in the midfield. The loss ends the season for Del Oro (4-5-3 in the SFL) while Granite Bay (5-4-3, 9-8-4 overall) will face Oak Ridge in its playoff opener that is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Friday in El Dorado Hills. “This is a new position for us going into playoffs,” Roberts said. “Typically we're hosting a first round game so traveling and being considered an underdog is different. We have one week to get ready for Oak Ridge, who knocked us out prematurely last year. We have a lot of work to do.”