Maria Carrillo Women’s Soccer team playing a home game ( Photo: Maria Carrillo Senior Cassady Carpenter)
by Tessa Tappe, staff writer
Maria Carrillo High School’s women’s and men’s varsity soccer teams both made it to the North Coast Section playoffs this year. Despite challenges such as injuries and COVID-19, the women’s team went to the NCS playoff semi-finals, while the men’s got second in their league in the regular season.
The women’s team, even after an eight-game winning streak, finished second in league standings behind Windsor High School. MCHS senior Maddie Gmitter said, “We started off the season a little shaky, but we pulled it together and beat every team the second half of the season.” Women’s soccer coach Michael Cox said, “The team came together in those big moments. That’s the reason why we were able to go into that eight-game winning streak.” Plays by athletes such as Gmitter and senior Maxine Baker worked to make their success possible. “Gmitter made an incredible cross with no time on the clock and Maxine put it in the back of the net, which was incredible,” said Cox, about a crucial game against Granada High School. Senior Cassady Carpenter had an “absolutely amazing” play allowing them to get past James Logan High School in the playoffs. “She had three goals in one game with a last second buzzer-beater,” said Cox.
For Carpenter, the highlight of the season was spending time with her teammates. “Between practices, traveling and pregame rituals I was able to bond with my team more than any other year before, and I truly consider them all my best friends,” Carpenter said.
Sophomore and starting varsity goalkeeper Brynn Korpela, got Defensive Player of the Year for the league. “I think that it’s a pretty cool title to be given, but it in no way can only be my success. I had the best defensive line in the league in front of me the whole season which helped so much,” said Korpela. An example of one of their more successful games that involved their defensive line was their game against Windsor. Korpela added, “The title itself is just a bit of a confidence boost and a validation from the countless hours of time I put in is paying off and to just keep doing what I’m doing.”
Along with those highlights came challenges. At the beginning of the season, the Pumas lost a game against Sonoma Valley High School. Baker said, “We ended up losing to them 0-1, it was very disappointing because we knew we should have beat them,” adding, “We had a ton more shots on goal we just couldn’t place one in, they [SVHS] just worked off of one of the few opportunities they had and finished.”
The women’s team overcame this challenge, coming back by successfully beating other tough teams. This included beating Saint Francis High School, a team ranked number 26 in the country. “They weren’t expecting to lose that game,” explained Cox. Another tough opponent was Windsor High School, who was undefeated last season but fell to MCHS in this match. The Pumas scored early to secure the 1-0 victory against the team that would later outpace them for the season overall.
The men’s team’s success came during their first time competing in the Oak Division, a more competitive league, where they finished second behind Montgomery High School. “We needed to go 2-1 in order to get a home playoff game to make sure we had second in league. So finishing 2-1, defeating Piner [High School], defeating Windsor [High School], were key games,” said coach Trevor Brady. To achieve this goal, players put maximum effort into their plays. Brady said, “Carson Saunders had a great shot against Rancho Cotate High School, giving us a tie.”
Challenges were faced for both teams, such as losing players throughout the season. “At one point we were hit pretty hard with COVID; 80 to 90% of our players were all either sick or in quarantine,” Brady said, adding, “We also had a number of key injuries.” These challenges led to last-minute shifting into a new formation of players on the field. “We figured it out, fortunately. We have a large senior group. They stepped up when asked and gave everything that was asked of them and more,” said Brady.
The effort put in by athletes and the coaching staff led to the women’s team making it to the semi-finals and the men’s team getting to league. Even though the women were eliminated in penalty kicks and the men in the second round of the playoffs, they still overcame many challenges to achieve success.