SANTA ROSA – Calistoga had more shots on goal, more corner kicks, and more legitimate scoring chances than host Rincon Valley Christian on Wednesday, but still trailed by two goals three minutes into the second half.
Senior striker Gilda Rojas conceded that her teammates on the fifth-seeded Wildcats’ girls soccer squad got down on themselves, frustrated by a score that didn’t resemble the flow of the CIF North Coast Section Division 3 playoff opener.
But they didn’t let up. The offense kept the onslaught coming, one attack after another. That resolve led to an unlikely comeback – one that needed a second period of extra time to actualize it – as Calistoga upset the fourth-seeded Eagles, 4-3, on a sudden-death score in the 93rd minute by Rojas, assisted by fellow forward Lizbet Escobedo.
“Probably the best feeling ever for now. It was pretty awesome, like the adrenaline of making that goal – I was pretty hyped,” said Rojas. “I was super happy because, the last time we played them, we lost 6-3. Coming back and beating them in the playoffs and going to round two, that’s pretty cool.”
That decisive goal was Rojas’ second of the game. In the 32nd minute, she won a long ball over the top and scooped it past the goalie for the 1-1 equalizer.
The tied score only last seven minutes, though. Just before halftime, Alyssa Hammer pounded her way through the Calistoga (8-8) defense and put the home team back on top with a confident finish.
Three minutes into the second half, Ladda Prasompon dispossessed a Wildcat defender in a flurry of action in front of the net and sent a slow roller across the line for a two-goal advantage.
Calistoga’s offense never wavered, pouring on 13 of their 23 total shots in the second half alone. Escobedo was the catalyst for much of the second-half attack, taking on multiple defenders and flashing her skill on the ball with numerous runs at the net. Her most notable chance came five minutes after Prasompon’s goal, when she sent a rocket that went off the far post.
However, Escobedo broke through in the 53rd minute, assisted by a Maira Montanez pass into the heart of the RVC (6-8) defense. Escobedo quickly spun around and launched the shot, catching the keeper flatfooted as the ball settled into the left side of the net.
Calistoga’s defense held strong, and allowed the offense to keep pushing. In the 62nd minute, a hard shot by Yesenia Carillo was rebounded and put home by Erendira Robledo to knot the game at 3-3.
The Wildcats kept coming in the final minutes of the second half but were unable to manufacture the one play they needed until the early moments of the second OT, when Rojas propelled her side into the semifinals.
“I thought the last three games, we had some really good practices and I kind of felt this coming on … the effort was great,” said Calistoga head coach Jack McMahon.
On Saturday, they’ll face top-seeded St. Vincent (17-0) – which beat Upper Lake 6-0 in the first round – in Petaluma at 3 p.m. The Mustangs beat the Wildcats twice in North Central League II play this year by a combined score of 12-0.
Varsity Boys Soccer
Calistoga 7, California Crosspoint 0
The third-seeded Wildcats (13-2-2) didn’t allow a single shot on goal as they overwhelmed the No. 14 Rams (4-9-1) Wednesday afternoon in the opening round of the NCS Division 2 playoffs at RVC in Santa Rosa.
Gio Avina got the scoring started in the 10th minute on a cross from Manuel Zavala. Avina also forced an own goal in the 79th minute that capped the scoring.
The junior also had two assists. The most impressive came in the 49th minute when he returned the favor to his senior co-captain, sending in a corner kick from the right side that Zavala powered off his right boot into the goal. That score made it 5-0.
The goal before that, just six minutes before halftime, also came after a corner kick. Rams goalie Connor Cheng punched the cross away, but freshman Ignacio Mendoza was able to volley the ball into the net.
The other goals came from Abad Cuenca in the 12th minute off a quick cross from Jesus Mendoza, who had an impressive score of his own on a 25-yard yard launch in the 57th minute, and Robert Romero late in the first half off a header.
The Wildcats had 25 shots and seven corner kicks. The Rams had two corner kicks that were swiftly defended.
“I feel like this is a really good group,” Calistoga head coach Danny Almanza said. “This group is really coachable. You could have other talented kids that aren’t as coachable, and your goals might not be the same (because of that). But with this group, everyone’s on the same page and, as long as everything goes our way, we have a really good chance (to win it all).”
Calistoga will play at RVC again on Saturday, hosting No. 6 Drew (12-7) of San Francisco at 1 p.m. The Dragons beat Mendocino 3-0 in the first round.
Calistoga 3, North Hills Christian 0
It may have been a sweep for the No. 7 Wildcats (13-7) in their NCS Division 6 playoff opener in Calistoga Wednesday night, but the No. 10 Eagles (12-8), based in Vallejo, made them work for the win.
After cruising to a 25-10 victory in the first game, Calistoga had to dig deep to hold off the visitors 25-19 and 25-23 to complete the shutout.
“I was super happy because you never know with nerves and it being a home game, hoping a good crowd (comes out), and that they’re going to come together,” said Wildcats head coach T’Anne Butcher, “and they just did exactly what I wanted them to do. A little rough with serving tonight, but they came through. Hits were great, Sadie (Monhoff) did a great job setting as always, our defense was up and, yeah, there was a little hiccup in that last game … but I told them, ‘Let’s take care of business,’ and that’s just what they did.”
The second game featured four lead changes, and the Wildcats were down 13-10 midway through until senior setter Sadie Monhoff took over the serve and helped her side settle back down. Calistoga jumped out to a 17-12 lead and let its defense shine, spearheaded by Citlali Montanez at the net and a diving Vanessa Quiepo, who refused to let the ball hit the floor. She recorded an ace to score the 25th point and end the game.
Calistoga began losing focus and North Hills Christian showed some patience as it scored multiple points on mistakes by the host team. Both teams had their endurance tested in a few long rallies, but the Wildcats earned the point more often than not, holding a 22-17 until the mental mistakes started coming back and the Eagles pulled within 24-23.
In the end, it was a mistake by North Hills Christian that sealed it, and Calistoga won a playoff game for the first time in more than a decade.
The Wildcats will travel to Mendocino (13-5) and face the second-seeded Cardinals, the North Central League III champs, at 7 p.m. Saturday.