Despite cold and rainy conditions at Napa Valley College on Monday, the sun shined brightly on the Trinity Prep girls soccer team.
The Crusaders built a two-goal lead and hung on for their first win of the season, 2-1 over Lodi Academy.
It was also their last win of the season.
First-year co-coach Milton Gallegos said Trinity Prep had to cancel its last three games – set for Monday, Wednesday and Thursday next week – due to conflicts with spring break.
“I have one girl having a procedure and four going on vacation,” he explained. “That leaves me with about seven players.”
But Gallegos was happy to see the Crusaders capitalize on their final chance to avoid a winless season, in their only game not played in the Sacramento area.
“I told my girls that I wanted this win for them,” he said. “All the work they put in and all the adversity they’ve faced, they truly deserved this win. I’m really happy that they got to experience it.”
The Crusaders (1-9-1) had had several near-misses this season, but they were not to be denied this time. Freshman forward Josie Haeuser drove a low, hard shot past the Titans goalkeeper in the 15th minute to give Trinity a lead it would never surrender.
“It felt really good to score that goal,” said Haeuser, one of seven freshmen on the 13-player team.
Haeuser and co-captain Ella Hickey had several good opportunities in the first half. In the 10th minute, Hickey dribbled past several defenders, but her shot went just outside the right post. In the 23rd minute, Hickey just missed a similar opportunity.
Haeuser came close to a second goal late in the first half, but the Lodi goalie made a diving save to keep score 1-0 at halftime.
“Both Josie and Ella really played well,” noted Gallegos. “It was hard to get a lot of power on their shots because of the high, wet grass on this field today.”
Meanwhile, the Trinity defense, led by freshman Marian Ford and sophomore Maggie Immen, kept the Titans’ attack at bay for most of the first half.
“They had a forward who gave us trouble. She was fast and kept us on our toes,” Gallegos pointed out. “All season long we’ve been working with our defenders to use their bodies and it seemed liked all the things we’ve been working on really clicked today.”
Ford enjoyed her defensive role.
“When I’m trying to stop a girl from shooting, it’s such an adrenaline rush,” she said. “When I prevent shots I feel better and my team gets really excited,” she added. “It’s just the best feeling.”
Hickey made it 2-0 just five minutes into the second half when she buried a 20-yard shot high in the right corner of the Lodi net. She just missed on another hard shot just 10 minutes later.
“Ella has a good right and left foot and once she starts to believe in herself and doesn’t overthink it, she has a nice clean shot,” Gallegos said.
Wen Lodi was awarded a penalty kick in the 58th minute, it was time for freshman goalie Eileen Healey to step up for Trinity Prep. Healey excited her teammates and the crowd with a diving save of a low, hard shot to preserve the Crusaders’ 2-0 lead.
“Eileen saving that penalty kick gave us a real boost instead of giving Lodi momentum,” said Gallegos. “She really extended on that save, and that’s one of the things we’ve been working with her on.”
Lodi finally got on the board by converting a penalty kick in the 75th minute, but Trinity hung on for the epic win.
“This is the end of the season and I couldn’t have thought of a better way to go out,” Gallegos smiled. “It was especially satisfying because Lodi played hard and they’re a good group of girls with a good coach. This win is absolutely something we can build on. We’re already itching to get going next year. We hope to get some more girls because we rode this whole season with just 13. We have a lot to build on and it’s almost all youth because we had only one upperclassman. It’s going to be exciting.”
Gallegos and co-coach Adrian Guetter brought soccer back to Trinity Prep this season after the school was unable to field a team for several years.
“It’s really nice to have a team of mostly freshmen knowing that we can grow and get better next year,” said Haeuser.
Ford felt it was a fitting end to a long season for the Crusaders.
“Oh my gosh, I want to cry,” she said. “It’s so satisfying. We worked so hard for this.”