When bragging rights are on the line, teams don’t feel sorry for their rivals.
That was apparent after Vintage got on the board with an own goal a minute before halftime Wednesday night en route to a 2-0 Big Game victory at Memorial Stadium.
Winless Napa High was having a rough night. Not only did the own goal come when a teammate’s back pass got past talented UC San Diego-bound goalkeeper Grace Vlandis, but the Grizzlies also had two starters get sidelined with injuries.
Vlandis, after making only her second start of the season after sitting out the first nine games because of concussion protocol, didn’t join her teammates for the halftime talk. She spent the break talking to an assistant coach on the bench, and then told head coach Milton Gallegos she wouldn’t be able to play the second half.
Gallegos had to press Brenda Bernardino, one of two goalkeepers who had filled in while Vlandis was recovering, back into action.
“Brenda basically had 10 seconds before I told her ‘Hey, you’re in,’” the coach said.
Two minutes into the second half, from a scramble in front of the net, Irais Hernandez scored the insurance goal for Vintage (6-3-2, 2-2 VVAL).
“Brenda went in as cold as they come for a goalie those first few minutes,” Gallegos said. “Once she settled in, she had a couple of stops and they didn’t score again.”
But the Grizzlies (0-10-1, 0-3 VVAL) couldn’t muster a comeback. Injuries that sidelined defender Jaqueline Perez Reyes in the first half and forward Avry Brandt in the second half, a yellow card issued to midfielder Maribel Rafael in the first half, and the goalkeeper switch all forced Gallegos to shuffle his lineup.
“Their attacks were pretty straightforward through balls and I think we were reading them well,” Gallegos said. “Unfortunately, the timing of the own goal was a big bucket of ice water. It really shook us. Then with the injuries and keeper change, there was a morale shift.”
Vlandis’ self-benching surprised Vintage, as well.
“We knew that she was good, and at halftime we talked about how she plays – and then they took her out,” Hernandez said. “Even if she was playing, we were confident that we were going to score again. I think we can play like this against anybody in league. We just need to have a positive attitude every game and be able to communicate all the time.”
The Grizzlies remained winless for the 13th consecutive game, a streak that began after they blanked Vintage 2-0 last Feb. 6.
“I know it’s hard when you haven’t won a game in a year,” Gallegos said. “But even amongst that chaos, their only goal of the second half was one of those garbage balls that falls in the box and is 50/50. Considering everything we were up against, I thought we held our own. Our attack came back in the second half, but by then we had run out of gas and lacked organization.”
Vintage didn’t have any players leave the field due to injury, which might have had something to do with head coach Miguel Ayala working in the health care industry.
“Some of these kids don’t think they need to hydrate because it’s cooler,” Ayala said. “We had some girls cramping up as well. But I saw the boys cramping up yesterday (during their Big Game), so I knew it was going to be an issue.”
It was the first Big Game win for Hernandez, the Crushers’ top scorer on the season. Her JV team tied Napa’s two years ago, but her varsity team was shut out twice by the Grizzlies last season.
“In the first half, I think our team was a little nervous and we weren’t possessing the ball,” she said. “Then we started getting in rhythm and Napa was trying to do boot ball. They were really trying to get around us, but we started to get the rhythm of their play and were able to able to play around them.”
Vintage has already tripled its overall win total of last season.
“I think our team gets along really well and we’re able to communicate a lot,” Hernandez said. “At practice that’s what we work on, passing and talking to each other, and it’s been helping us a lot throughout league.”
Hernandez had a shot ricochet off the sidepost early in the game. Maile Sittler, Nayeli Cervantes, Madisyn Flohr and Amy Alfaro also had shots on goal for Vintage.
Helping goalkeeper Sam Linteo record the shutout were defenders Meredith Cuevas, Chase DeBow, Bailey Stone, Mia Gloria and Kasandra DeHaro.
“Chase and Meredith were tremendous and Sam was big-time again,” Ayala said. “I’m proud of the girls.”
Gallegos was proud of his own players, including JV call-ups Annie Sanchez and Ava Dominguez.
“This was Ava’s first call-up from the JV. She played all 80 minutes and created chances in the first half,” he said. “Mila Valentine was outstanding, too, playing all 80 minutes and giving it her all.
“Sophia Conversano, my fullback, covered Irais and never really let her break away or have too many clear shots in the first half except for the one off the post. I have to give props to Sophia. She’s the only player on my active roster who has played every minute of every game this far.”
The Crushers host Sonoma Valley on Friday night, while Napa could have a shot at its first win when it visits winless American Canyon.
“This is the best oh-fer team I’ve ever coached,” Gallegos said.
Vintage JV 2, Napa 1
The Crushers (3-1 VVAL) got goals from Savannah Snider and Bianca Avalos and a game-saving stop of a penalty kick by goalkeeper Kayleigh Sheppard.
Sadie Carpenter scored for Napa High.