On Saturday, the 3-seed Cats hosted the 6-seed Live Oak Acorns in the CCS Open Division Quarterfinals. It was a blustery day beneath a cloudless sky, the wind regularly blowing over the flags at the corners of the field. The Cats forced the tempo from the beginning, mounting a persistent attack, leading to a couple of good chances. In the 2nd minute, senior captain Kelli Keady took a free kick just outside the box that Live Oak deflected out of bounds. The subsequent corner was kicked wide by a Wildcat. In the 13th minute, on a free kick, junior captain Emily Nedom pushed the ball to the left, where a sprinting Keady took it past the defensive wall and fired it toward the far side of the goal, but the Acorn keeper made a diving grab.
Because of the Cat defense, Live Oak didn’t get the ball deep into Wildcat territory for the first fifteen minutes of the match. In the 17th minute, the Acorns had their first chance on a long ball sent down the right side. The Acorn attacker controlled the ball, made a move, and sent a cross into the box that was headed out by junior defender Lauren Pederson. The Cats tried to counter. In the 20th minute, junior Niki Krockenberger got free on the right side and sent a shot into the outside of the goal. One minute later, Nedom crossed the ball from the left corner, going just over senior captain Isabella Scott’s head and into the keeper’s arms. Live Oak had a great chance in the 26th minute, on another deep run down the right side, but junior defender Blake Brennan, alone on a defensive island, tipped the ball away and regained control for the Cats. One minute later, Nedom took the ball from the Wildcat end and dribbled sixty yards down the field, before sending a pass ahead to Scott into the box, but the Cats were called for being offsides.
The scoring drought finally ended in the 30th minute, when Nedom leaped on mis-hit from an Acorn defender at the top-left corner of the box, took three dribbles down the left side, and deftly curled a ball over the leaping keeper and into the right side of the net. The pace of the game picked up even more after that, though the ball stayed in the middle of the field most of the time. The Cats had one more threat in the half. In the 35th minute, senior Lainey Engles shot a laser through a crowd from 25 yards out that hit the left upright and spun back across the goal, going out of bounds on the right side. The back-and-forth continued until the whistle blew with the Cats up 1 – 0.
In the second half, the Cats had to battle the attacking Acorns and a gusting headwind, but neither could slow them down. They turned up the heat immediately. On the first possession of the half, Keady occupied three defenders in the middle of the field before leading senior Lizzy Armstrong down the left side. Armstrong turned the corner, attacking the goal, and sent a shot screaming past the keeper that grazed the top left of the crossbar before flying past the goal. Scott grabbed control of the subsequent goal kick in the middle of the field, kicked it forward to Nedom, who turned and poked it ahead to Krockenberger, who just beat the keeper to the ball, kicking it past her and into the goal. In the 45th minute, Nedom was mugged by two Acorns and went down in the box, earning a penalty kick. She addressed the ball with her eyes locked on to the top right corner of the net, before casually sending the ball to the left for the goal. The Cats quickly found themselves up 3 – 0.
The Cats kept the pressure up, continuing to attack, but the Acorn keeper was up to the task for the next several minutes, making numerous saves. The Acorns had no give-up in them, and in the 57th minute, a Live Oak attacker took the ball into the box and was taken down. The Acorns got their first score on the penalty kick, as the ball rolled just past the outstretched hands of diving senior keeper Bekah Delgado. But the Cats countered immediately, when, on the next possession, Nedom took the ball from the midfield, dribbled past three defenders, and buried the ball in the net, giving the Cats a 4 – 1 lead on her third goal of the day. Two minutes later, the Cats had another chance, as Keady escaped from three Acorn defenders and skied a cross to Armstrong, who narrowly missed a header.
The Acorns capitalized on a Wildcat mistake in the 66th minute, when an errant kick by a defender gave the Acorns the advantage, and the Live Oak attacker sent a shot into the goal from 30 yards out. The Cats were still up 4 – 2, but the fans were getting a little anxious. In the 69th minute, Krockenberger broke past the defenders toward a sent ball, but the Acorn keeper just got there first, causing a collective groan from the Wildcat faithful, who remained uneasy. One minute later, the Acorns had a free kick from 25 yards out that Delgado corralled. It remained tense until the 72nd minute, when the Cats unleashed a barrage of goals. In the 72nd minute, Keady broke free on the left side and chipped it past the keeper for her first score. In the 74th minute, the Cats earned a corner kick. Nedom send it in from the right corner, where it was initially stopped by an Acorn defender, but Keady slipped between two Acorns, stole the ball, turned and nudged it past a third defender to Krockenberger, who tapped it once and then kick it off of the keeper’s leg and into the net. One minute later, Nedom took a shot that glanced off of an Acorn defender; Keady controlled the ricochet and fired it past the keeper into the goal. In the 78th minute, Engles had another chance, but this one, too, dinged off the left post.
The Cats win the contest 7 – 2, their highest scoring game of the season thus far. They now head to the CCS Open Division Semifinals on Tuesday. They will travel to Mountain View to take on the 2-seed St. Francis Lancers.