ROSEVILLE — With 14 seconds remaining, sophomore Colby Stapleton scored to give Davis High a gut-wrenching, 9-8 victory over St. Francis — and the school’s 10th Sac-Joaquin Section title and fourth in a row — on Saturday afternoon.
It marked the ninth consecutive time the two regional powers have met for the pennant. It also meant the Blue Devil had beaten the formidable Troubadours four times this season.
“I am so tired. I can’t even breathe right now,” explained an emotionally drained DHS goalkeeper Alicia Demaree. “I’ve been thinking about this since my freshman year: that I would be the goalie and help us win a section (title). I didn’t know if we were going to be able to do it — (St. Francis) was playing so well.”
The fans collected at the Roseville Aquatic Complex were at one with Demaree …
With five minutes left in the contest, the Troubadours were leading 8-6, playing stifling defense.
Suddenly, St. Francis was called for a 5-meter foul and sophomore Mara Dominguez was asked to get the Devils a tick closer. She converted her penalty shot and a physical, tense final 5:01 was underway.
Standout Troubie attacker Marissa Kolokotronis and center Kaitlyn Cozens had been giving Demaree and the Davis defense fits with their aggressive style and solid ball movement. As the clock evaporated, St. Francis had a couple of deliberate possessions as DHS slapped at the ball and tried to double team. More time passed, and fans were now standing.
At 3:18, Heather Johnson — in the middle but far off the goal — looked and looked and looked for an open sister.
Popping straight up just in front of her was Dominguez. Johnson’s pass was perfect and, as Dominguez came down, she let fly and tied things at 8-8.
Back and forth the area’s two best water polo squads volleyed.
Kolokotronis made an Olympic-worthy move around her defender and buoyed high in front of Demaree. Point-blank, the Troubadour’s shot was rejected by the Devil keeper.
Inside of two minutes, DHS and St. Francis defended successfully even when short-handed after exclusions.
Demaree and SFHS goalie Sophia Rubino both came up big and the Troubadours found themselves with the ball and 51 seconds left.
Working the perimeter, St. Francis got off another shot, but Demaree was there again. Seventeen-year Devil coach Doug Wright called time and drew up what proved to be Stapleton’s game-winner.
In the last seconds of the contest, St. Francis got close, but the defense of Jane Gunnell and Dominguez forced a weak Troubie shot and Demaree swam off with the ball as the final horn sounded.
“I kept blaming myself for every goal that went in,” the senior Devil goalkeeper told The Enterprise. “I just love my team sooo much. Without the (others’ play) we wouldn’t have won. I am so surprised that we just won that game in the last minute.”
Demaree need not be so hard on herself. Brilliant when it counted, Demaree turned away 12 St. Francis shots — including four down the stretch, two of which were in her face.
She had an assist Saturday and was a key ingredient of a season in which Davis went 27-5.
“She played big,” Wright said of Demaree. “She is hard on herself, and she shouldn’t be — especially not (Saturday). She played very well.”
St. Francis led 2-1 after a period, but DHS came back to tie 4-4 by intermission, thanks to second-quarter goals from Stapleton, Katie Van Deynze and Lauren Owens.
Cozens and Julie Zanobini traded tallies with Owens and Johnson in the third period, which ended knotted at 6-6.
The Blue Devils got balanced scoring — Stapleton, Van Deynze, Dominguez and Owens each with two goals and season high-scorer Johnson netting one.
“That was terrific getting two early goals from a fifth scorer,” Wright said of co-captain Van Deynze’s tandem.
Asked what he took away from the season — and the finale — Wright shook his head before answering:
“Never count us out. We were up against it a number of times this season and the girls pulled through.
“This was another big game where we just kind of hung in there and kept believing in ourselves and kept playing the game until the horn went off.
“I’m as shocked as anybody (about the end). St. Francis played very well. It’s an exceptionally good team. We made the right plays at the right moments down the stretch and that was the difference.
Notes: DHS was outshot by St. Francis, 30-23, but the locals won the turnover battle with 14 steals to eight for the Troubies. … Co-captain Claire Evans was happy afterward: “I never thought I’d be part of the starting lineup in a section championship game. This is a really amazing experience. There is nothing better than a team … and now there’s nothing better than our girls. We’ve worked hard through a lot of stuff. And when you can work (through things), this is what you can get. It was just amazing.”
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.