It might have been just another loss, but the Rancho Cotate Cougars greeted their final score of 17-10 against the Casa Grande Gauchos with jubilation last Fri., March 28th in a league game held at Rancho Cotate High School.
The Cougars cheered their loss mostly because the Gauchos were, by far, the favored team in the match up. Casa Grande was the number one seed in the North Coast Section Girls Lacrosse League with an intimidating seven-win streak. In contrast, the Cougars were very much in last place, lacking even a single win this year. Their record stands currently at 0-7.
With such an ill-aligned match up, victory for the Cougars became less of a goal and more of an idea--forever on the horizon, yet always the destination. So, the fact that Rancho Cotate, the bottom-most seed in their division, managed to rival the top-most seed served as a cause for celebration.
“We got into their heads,” Cougar coach, Maddy Smith, said. “It’s part of the risk of being number one. They came out here and expected they would own the place, but we got in their heads and we did it. The one thing we had today that they didn’t was magic.”
A large portion of the credit for the close score lies at the feet of Cougar goalie, Ashley Baccei. Baccei served as the keystone of the Cougars’ defensive pattern with a solid 25 saves throughout the course of the game.
On one notable occasion in the third quarter, the Gauchos drove the ball up the field and parked it outside the Cougars’ box. They circled the goal like a school of sharks, probing the defensive pattern for an opening. It wasn’t long before the Gauchos found one. Gaucho forward, Trinity Merwin, fired off a shot from the far corner, which Baccei saved with a flick of her net.
Yet Merwin wasn’t done. She intercepted Baccei’s pass and brought it back for another attempt. Baccei stopped that one too, but it was close, and a few seconds later on the third shot Merwin finally got it in.
“Our team has been doing so much for us. My defense has been pushing themselves so hard and our offense has gotten so much better over the season. Even though we lost I feel that we came onto this field and won,” Baccei said.
If Baccei stood out on defense, then her counterpart on offense was the Cougars’ Marisa Kilmurray. Of the ten goals Rancho Cotate scored, Kilmurray managed five.
Yet she was only half of a one-two combo with her fellow forward, Taylor Hoxsie. Together they worked to pick apart the Gauchos defensive pattern and keep their team in contention. Late in the fourth quarter as the game moved towards its conclusion, the Cougars set an objective for themselves: they wanted to reach double digits.
And the Cougars got off to a good start when Hoxsie knocked the ball out of a Gaucho defender’s possession with a slice upwards of her net. It sent the ball flying through the air. Both teams gathered around, but it was Kilmurray who reacted first. She snatched the ball and took off for the goal, flicking it so fast at the Gauchos’ goalie that it blurred.
The bell fell into the net and the Cougars’ bench erupted in cheers.
“The score doesn’t reflect what, to me, happened on the field. To me I think they won. They became a team tonight. I couldn’t be more proud,” Smith said.
The road gets a little bit easier for the Cougars from here on out. They go up next against the Petaluma Trojans April 9. The Trojans are currently fifth in league, just barely ahead of the Cougars who stand at sixth.