Davis High’s Clara Goin had a lot going through her mind as she prepared for her free kick about 16 yards out, to the right of the Granite Bay goal …
The soccer contest was without a score. Twenty-four seconds remained in regulation. The senior was beaten up after playing a brilliant-but-physical game from her midfield position.
Blue Devil fans wanted this rugged, second-round Sac-Joaquin Section playoff game over.
So Goin took a deep breath and let fly with a perfect entry pass to the far post in the box. On cue, DHS freshman forward Gaby Herrera sneaked through the Grizzlies’ defense and headed her most-important varsity goal past a startled Grizzly keeper.
As expected, the solid Devil defense held sway for the final ticks and the locals escaped with a dramatic 1-0 victory at Yudin Field on Thursday.
Was Goin looking for Herrera?
“Actually, I was,” the exhausted heroine told The Enterprise. “All my friends in the stand were yelling ‘Calm down, Clara. You’ve got this one.’
“I saw Gaby’s head at the back post and I thought ‘I got you, Gaby,’ kicked it and I actually did!”
The victory means No. 1-seed Davis (19-4-1) will next meet Oak Ridge on Wednesday. The game will be in town, but officials haven’t decided the start time. The Trojans finished second in the Delta Valley League (6-2-2) behind St. Francis. Oak Ridge (12-4-3) is coming off a 2-1 win over Enochs on Thursday on the road.
Blue Devil assistant coach Brittany Gary was again at the DHS helm, substituting for coach Sara Stone, who missed her second home game in two weeks due to an ongoing personal matter.
Was Gary — a member of the DHS’ 2007 section soccer champs — nervous?
“A little bit,” the Sacramento State criminology major admitted. “But I’m confident about what I need to do. We’re a threat from every angle … so there wasn’t a lot of pressure on me.”
Gary and Company slogged through an uneven first half with the Sierra Foothill League’s third-place team (and SJS tourney’s No. 9 seed).
The Devils were outplayed early, their guests earning three quick corner kicks and taking the only meaningful shots of the first half.
Playing a double-sweep defense, Granite Bay stuck defenders Sara Wagner and Sydney Talmi deep on the pitch, not letting Davis forwards get much traction on offense.
Despite outshooting the Grizzlies 4-2 in the initial 40 minutes, DHS seemed listless and the possession advantage went to the visitors. While the reserves sat quietly in the shade, those Devils on the pitch seemed to be toiling in the dark.
Then Gary’s halftime chat lifted spirits and a different Davis edition hit the grass.
“The second half was a lot better for us,” Gary said. “More chances, we kept better possession, we had better control of the game.”
Indeed, but Granite Bay was on their toes for this one and repeatedly came after the Blue Devils.
At 64:16, Grizzly freshman Maggie Bell turned and fired a left-footed rocket over the DHS net. Seconds later, Bell shot again, this time with goalie Maddy Purves making a terrific save.
Bell kept the pressure on as her third attempt in 90 seconds cleared a leaping Purves and skipped off the crossbar and out-of-bounds.
Still, Granite Bay wasn’t done …
Brigid Lummis, the solid, play-anywhere senior captain, fueled another Grizzly volley.
A long pass into a charging (and open) Bell just missed connecting. Moments later, Lummis sailed a shot just wide.
With about 10 minutes remaining, Davis settled in, controlled the situation and finally broke through on the Goin-to-Herrera highlight.
Gary was busy with substitutions throughout, and each combination she tried kept the other devil from the door.
Brooke Palmer was effective at midfield and defense, Olivia Haass solidified a pressured back line, while Renee Schuman and Megan Casey repelled a handful of first-half Granite Bay sojourns into Davis territory.
Now, the section tournament is down to the Final Four with the championship contest to be played at Cosumnes Oaks or Lincoln highs (Stockton) on Saturday, May 18.
Notes: DHS was outshot 9-6 and had no corner kicks. GK Purves played both halves and recorded three saves, two on promising, on-frame Grizzly tries. … The last time the Blue Devils and Oak Ridge played, Davis prevailed 2-0 in 2011 — the same year the locals won the last of their four CIF championships. … A sparse crowd at kickoff grew to almost 170 by games end. … Goin twice went hard to the turf, each time after being colliding with an opponent. She said afterward her neck hurt, but she expected to be OK for Wednesday’s semifinal outing. … St. Francis and Franklin also advanced.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.