With 1:33 left in semifinals of the West Bay Athletic League Tournament on May 11, junior Emma Clarke scored a goal, giving the Dons their first lead in the game against Sequoia. This lead would stay intact for the remainder of the contest to give the Lady Dons a thrilling 7-6 victory, advancing to the championship game in their first-ever playoff appearance.
“It feels good,” says Clarke. “Coming into the program [in my] freshman year, I really didn’t expect much from this except a good time after school, but winning feels like all of the hard work that we put in for something payed off.”
The game did not look all too interesting in the first half, with the Dons scoring only one goal. They were trailing at halftime by a score of 3-1.
“Sequoia plays zone defense that is definitely more aggressive than teams we see,” says coach Kalyn Olson. “We had 18 turnovers in the first half because I think that it was a combination of jitters and not feeling confident off the bat.”
Right after halftime, the Lady Dons tied things up, as senior Julianna Glafkides and junior Kate Fitzgerald each netted a goal.
“When you’re in a new setting, in the semifinals for the very first time, there are definitely jitters,” says Olson. “But once they got back to basics and remembered what they are trying to execute, I think that they all settled in and worked as a team to find the easy pass and the open looks.”
From there, it would become a back and forth game, with Sequoia taking a 5-3 lead, followed by the Lady Dons tying it back up with goals from Glafkides and Clarke before a stoppage in play with 10:31 left on the clock.
The Lady Dons would allow a sixth Cherokee goal before Clarke tied it again. Afterwards, the Lady Dons held off a strong Sequoia attack before Clarke would score the winning goal on the counter-attack.
“It felt good,” says Clarke. “I got the ball off of a transition, and it was just me and a defender and I know I can take her, so then it was just me and the goalie.”
Seconds later, the Cherokees appeared to have scored an equalizer, which possibly could have forced an overtime. However, the referees ultimately chose to disallow the goal when it was discovered that the pocket in the scorer’s stick was too deep, and was therefore deemed illegal.
“If a girl’s pocket is too deep and you cannot see the ball over the plastic part of the stick, then it is deemed too deep, and thus is is illegal,” says Olson.
The Dons’ win clinches them a spot in the WBAL championship game on Saturday morning at Palo Alto High School — a neutral venue — against Burlingame.
“Burlingame is undefeated in league and we are a definitely different team from when we faced them earlier in the season,” concludes Olson. “We have developed and matured our plays and have stepped up our plays, so I’m excited for the rematch and to finish strong.”