There was something in the air Friday night, as the Cats played their first home game under the lights this season. Their last meeting with Mountain View, three weeks ago on the road, ended in a 2-1 defeat, their only loss of the season. The Spartans entered the contest on a three-game winning streak, coming off of a 7-0 victory over Santa Clara. The Cats were looking for revenge and a statement win.
Before the first kick, the seniors for both teams were recognized. In a show of good sportsmanship, the Spartans started the game by kicking the ball out of bounds, so that Los Gatos senior Nicola Kaminski, who is recovering from knee surgery, could leave the field after starting one last game. The pace then quickened substantially. Both keepers were busy in the first half without being threatened, the ball ping-ponging from end to end for the majority of the half. Each goalie had to make several saves, but each one was fairly routine. In the 7th minute, junior captain Emily Nedom tapped the ball ahead of the pack and outpaced two defenders trying to track it down, but the Spartan keeper left the net, rushing out to kick it away. In the 12th minute, Mountain View earned a corner kick that was easily handled by the Cat defense. The best scoring chance of the half for the Cats came in the 38th minute, when senior captain Kelli Keady sent a ball from the left side toward the goal, but it was wide right and bounced harmlessly out of bounds. The half ended in a 0-0 tie.
The intensity for both squads picked up in the second. The Spartans put a cross in the box in the 44th minute that looked momentarily dangerous, but the Cat defenders spoiled the chance. In the 48th minute, senior Lainey Engles stole the ball on the Cats’ half of the field and fired a 25-yard pass to Nedom, who made a turn, split the last two defenders, and poked the ball past the onrushing Spartan keeper into the corner of the goal. The score let the stadium take its first deep breath of the night, breaking the tension that had been building. It also seemed to free up the players on the field. But that didn’t immediately lead to more goals.
In the 66th minute, the Spartans had a great chance coming into the box, but senior goalkeeper Bekah Delgado engaged the defender and knocked the ball out of bounds. The ensuing corner went in the middle of a crowd in the box and was kicked out by a defender. On the second corner kick of the possession, Delgado deftly snagged the ball out of the air to stop the attack. In the 69th minute, Keady had a good look that the Spartan keeper controlled.
And then the dam burst. And the Cats continued their recent habit of pouring in goals at the end of games. Junior Niki Krockenberger had been making runs and getting wins down the right side all night, but none of them had turned into scores. In the 70th minute, Krockenberger found some room in the middle of the field and tattooed a ball from 30 yards out that zoomed over the goalie’s outstretched arms and into the top left corner of the net. In the 74th minute, Engles sent the ball from the right side to Nedom in the middle of the field, who avoided three defenders and kicked it to an open Keady on the left side of the box. Keady tapped the ball ahead twice, and as her defender backed up to avoid getting beat off the dribble, fired a laser into the right side of the net. Four minutes later (in a sequence that may sound familiar), Engles won the ball deep in Wildcat territory and punched it ahead to Nedom, who made a turn and tapped it Keady just past midfield. Keady turned on the afterburners and raced toward the left side of the box with three defenders in pursuit. When she was 30 yards out, she stopped on a dime, causing two of the defenders to run into each other, took one dribble back to the right, and sent a shot screaming into the same part of the goal she had tagged for her first score. The celebration started brewing even before the whistle blew, ending the game with a 4-0 Cat victory.
The win takes the Cats to 8-1-1 in league play (13-1-3 overall) and gives them a firm grasp on first place, two games ahead of second-place Homestead in the win column. The Cats can clinch a league title with a win or two draws in their remaining games against Los Altos and Santa Clara. They face the Eagles on the road next Wednesday.
Note: All times and distances mentioned in the article are approximate.