Parents and students rushed the field Thurs., April 18 when the Rancho Cotate Cougars finally seized their first victory of the year over the Sonoma Academy Coyotes.
The win was long-awaited and hard in coming, but the struggle made the moment all the sweeter for the Cougars who now stand at 1-10 for the season. It’s been a rough year for the team thanks to a combination of a small bench and young roster. For some, the sheer heap of hardships would grow demoralizing, especially as the season dragged on, but the Cougars’ head coach, Maddy Smith, never looked to let the difficulties keep her down.
Smith clung tight to her optimism, celebrating her team’s defeats as if they were victories—just another step in the learning process.
“Everybody was here tonight. I think our players really fed off that energy to come together as a team,” Smith said. “This year, for both boys and girls in Rancho, it’s been a struggle because of things going on. Tonight was what we all expected would happen. Win or lose, we had each other’s backs.”
Right from the tip-off, it was clear the Cougars had come onto
the field with a plan. They seized the initiative in the first half and built a substantial lead, thanks in no small part to the efforts of their captain, Taylor Hoxsie. Hoxsie played like a demon on the pitch. Everything told, she managed a full eight of her team’s eleven goals and assisted one other.
That assist arrived after Hoxsie gained possession around midfield. She charged the goal, but the Coyotes had adjusted to Hoxsie’s one-woman-blitzkrieg style of play. They shifted their entire defensive pattern to stop her. Hoxsie, seeing no gap in the Coyotes armor, broke off her charge and circled around the back.
But the threat Hoxsie represented remained. The Coyotes devoted too many of their defensive players to keep her contained, which allowed Hoxsie’s teammate, Leslie Chavez, to slip close to the net.
Hoxsie passed. Chavez caught the ball and with a flick of her net flung it into the goal.
“It just feels so well deserved. It felt like every single one of us was fighting on the field, even when we were down three players,” Hoxsie said. “I got checked in the face a lot. But we don’t give up. We’re not quitting. A couple bumps in the head isn’t going to stop me.”
Momentum shifted against the Cougars in the second half. An injury in a previous game meant their goalie, Ashly Baccei, could only play a single half. She had to come out. Unfortunately for the Cougars, a combination of injuries and absences meant they lacked a replacement and they slogged through the rest of the game a full player down. Outnumbered and fatigued, the Cougars gave ground.
The Coyotes’ Mariah Mountanos launched a furious offensive which tore into the Cougars’ lead, and by the fourth quarter the two teams were tied. Yet the Coyotes’ push stalled when Smith shifted her team’s resources from defense back to offense. The break in the back had given Hoxsie and her fellow captain, Christine Pagaduan, a chance to rest and together they managed five goals in as many minutes to reclaim their lead. By the time the Coyotes could respond, it was too late.
“We’ve been waiting all season for a win. It’s kind of crazy to think that last year [Maddy Smith] won on senior night as well, so it was kind of like it was meant to be,” Cougar assistant coach, Sam Sanon, said.
For many of the girls, the Cougars’ match against the Coyotes was the last home game of their high school careers. Six of them are set to graduate come summer. Their number includes, Christine Pagaduan, Alondra Catalan, Lupe Alvarez Tovar, Lauren Allison, Leslie Chavez and Taylor Hoxsie.
Hoxsie at least we’ll see again. She plans to return next year and coach for the Rohnert Park Rancho Lacrosse Club.
“It feels so awesome to finally win, especially on my senior night. This is my last time playing on this field,” Hoxsie said.