The Wolfpack’s Sierra Gaffney & Sydney Simpson Combine for a Goal to Win it in Overtime
By Alvin Simpson
On Friday night, May 10th, Great Oak High School and Murrieta Mesa High School faced off for the Inaugural Inland Empire Championship. Girls teams from Chaparral, Murrieta Valley, Great Oak, Hemet, Centennial and Temecula Valley all participated in this first ever, historic CIF Southern Section Playoff.
This was the third meeting of the two teams this year. Great Oak won the first game 11-8 and took the second match 11-9. The Wolfpack won the Southwestern league crown, but the Rams had something to prove.
The Championship game got started after 7pm at Temecula Valley High School. The site was chosen as a neutral venue even though Great Oak was supposed to have home field advantage due to the fact that they were the Southwest League Champions and were the number one seed in the tournament.
Murrieta Mesa jumped out to a quick lead, led by the Ram’s scoring machine Sara Watts. She was supported by draw specialist, Deborah Ko and fellow captain Carcie Chappell. Watts fired off a two quick goals in the first 8 minutes of the game.
The Wolfpack girls kept their poise, managing to battle back with two goals of their own. Sophie Schroll put 2 in the net to tie it all up.
After the half the Wolfpack came back with strength and resolve, and methodically took apart the Rams with intensive defensive play. The Licitra twins, Sophia and Brittany each gobbling up ground balls as well as playing a very patient offense.
With time running out and behind by 2, Sierra “Diesel” Gaffney scored twice to make it a 10-10 tie at the end of regulation. Captain Sydney Simpson and the Wolfpack were headed to sudden death overtime against the Rams.
After a short meeting with the coaches each team retook the field for the 3 minute OT period. The first team to score would win the game.
Defensively, Murrieta Mesa had used 2 different goal keepers in the game. Great Oak’s goal keeper, Emma “Brick Wall” Brennan had saved 50% of the shots that were whipped in her direction. There were 22 shots on goal with 11 saves on the night.
Being held unusually quiet by the Rams, senior Sydney Simpson all season has had to deal with having her own personal defender, known as a “faceguard”, making it difficult to play her game. This game was clearly no exception. Mesa Head Coach Molly Sovacool assigned faceguard duty on Simpson to Jayda Johnson the entire game.
As the overtime period began, tensions ran high as the ball was placed between the crosses of Schleifer and Watts. Great Oak’s Gaffney swooped in to recover the draw and set up the offensive attack. The Wolfpack moved the ball around the field and Simpson was fouled and got a free position at a slightly awkward angle.
As she stepped to shoot, the whistle sounded from the referee. After resetting the clock, Simpson made her shot and it sailed wide of the net. Great Oak maintained possession of the ball,and, as fate would have it, Gaffney wasn’t finished for the night.
Just as Simpson slipped her defender with a beautiful spin move, Gaffney shot an arrow straight into Simpson’s stick. She tapped the ball into the net for a goal to win the overtime match and the CIF Inland Empire Championship with a final score was Great Oak 11 – Mesa 10 .
Great Oak was on a 13 game win streak and ended up with a record of 18-4. The Wolfpack was lead by Coach Alicia Brennan. The overtime victory gave her the the most lacrosse wins in Great Oak High School history.
Photos by Alvin Simpson