ELK GROVE — It’s official …
This Davis High girls soccer team is one for the ages.
Using stifling defense, some other-worldy goalkeeping from Hannah Gendron and an overtime goal by junior captain Courtney Jimenez, the Blue Devils snuck by defending champion St. Francis, 1-0, to win the Sac-Joaquin Section crown.
DHS finishes the season 25-1-1 and ranked third in the nation.
“I’m just happy for the kids,” an emotional Davis coach Allen Carlson said after the see-saw game at Cosumnes Oaks High on Saturday.
With a clear, warm afternoon turning into a joyous evening for the Blue Devil faithful, Carlson admitted he needed help from assistant coach Melissa Briggs “just to stand at the end.”
Carlson said he knew how much winning the game meant to his players, saying, “They brought me along in the emotion.”
St. Francis (15-8-1), expectedly, gave DHS almost more than it could handle. After all, the Troubadours have won 12 section titles, including seven of the last eight — until Saturday …
Fueled early by the play of forwards Kasey Curtis and Bobby Reilly — while defenders Alicia Wun, Kayla Nanoo and Hannah Bonotto made life miserable for Devil goal-scoring phenom Anna Maria Gilbertson — St. Francis made it clear its “off” record meant nothing.
“They played really well and did a good job standing up Anna. They played her high and forced her to the middle,” Carlson said.
Twenty minutes into the game, both teams had three shots, a corner kick each and they upped their physical play as the shadows grew longer.
Once Gilbertson found senior forward Sarah Sadler with a nice entry pass, but goalkeeper Kathleen Menz was up to the task for the Troubies.
Just before intermission, St. Francis had a terrific chance on a corner kick, but Gendron reached over poaching Sierra Montano and snatched the ball from the waiting Troubadour forward.
Lots of energy. Few shots. No score at halftime.
Regrouping after the break, SFHS coach Richard Carrigan sent versatile sophomore Andrea Damian on attack. Her shot just 54 seconds into the second period sailed over the crossbar.
Four minutes later, Troubie Jennifer Lum blasted a ball that Gendron had to deflect with both hands, then immediately punch the rebound to safety. St. Francis earned a corner kick on the play, but it was to no avail, and suddenly DHS was reminded of who it was playing.
Minutes later, Aliska Berry just missed Curtis in front of the goal and the Blue Devils were looking shaky.
But defender Jenifer Palmer, along with sweeper Dana Granger and co-captain Ali Yule, closed the door and Davis rekindled its season-long mantra — win the section.
DHS took the final four shots of regulation — one opportunity of which, at 3:12, almost was the game-winner.
Gilbertson worked a one-on-one with Wun, who made a nifty block of the junior’s shot. The ricochet went to Sadler, whose volley was just high.
In the first overtime period (preps play two mandatory 10-minute OTs before going to penalty kicks), the better team on this day emerged …
Allie Muller worked a corner, but to no avail. Gilbertson gave Katie Latsch a nice serve, but Latsch’s one-touch rolled wide.
At 4:14, it looked like Jennie Hawkins had put the Devils on the board, but her “goal” off a Latsch pass was called offside.
Three minutes later, came the game-winner …
After an entry pass from Granger, Jimenez dealt to Gilbertson on the right. The junior attacker let fly, hitting the upright.
Meanwhile, Jimenez was crashing from the left. The ball came hard to her and she finished.
The bullet gave half the 500 fans in attendance what they’d been waiting for.
Was it the hardest Jimenez ever struck a ball?
“I don’t know about that,” she said, surrounded afterward by celebrating teammates. “I just saw it and I was like, this is it. I just kicked it and I knew the goalie was on the complete other side of the goal — it was wide open and the ball came at me hard.
“I knew it was going in!”
Hawkins, spent and in tears, struggled for words:
“This game meant everything to me. This is … This is … I’m very overwhelmed with emotions. I don’t usually cry. I’m sooo happy, that’s how much it means to me.
“I love every single girl out here. We’re all so close and we’ve all worked so hard to make it here.”
Notes: Davis beat St. Francis, 1-0, early in the year at the St. Mary’s Tournament in Stockton in February. The Troubadours beat the Rams, 1-0, Thursday to advance to the finals. … Carlson had a lot of thoughts about what had just happened: “This spread the message about what a great program we have at the high school in athletics. I think the girls captured a lot of hearts in the city in terms of what they’ve done.” Carlson praised the play of Yule, Granger and Hawkins, saying “They’ve done it all season and they played so well in the air (Saturday), sending the ball well into the middle.” About his goalkeeper: “Hannah saved our bacon a couple of times (Saturday). Great saves.” Davis won other section crowns in 1998, 1999 and 2007.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or (530) 747-8047.