Grizzlies get even, beat Oak Ridge to reach semifinals

Granite Bay will meet Roseville Wednesday night
By: Brett Ransford, Press Tribune Correspondent
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On a sunny afternoon in El Dorado hills, soccer fans witnessed a mild upset in round one of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II girls postseason tournament. After highly-ranked Granite Bay was stunned by Oak Ridge a year ago in the semifinals, Friday brought the Grizzlies’ turn to flip the tables on the team from El Dorado Hills. Granite Bay (9-8-4) stole round one in the last minutes beating the Trojans 1-0. Drama was high in El Dorado Hills, but Christy Cooper rose above it all and put away a penalty shot in the 72nd minute to provide the contest’s only scoring. A strike from her left foot into the corner and side netting of the right goal side was the dagger to end it. The Trojans (11-5-3) were the favorite to win, having lost just two games in the Sierra Valley Conference and winning four of their last five games. Granite Bay, however, came in having earned its postseason berth only via a win and a Woodcreek loss on the season’s final day. Last year’s game was a 1-0 victory for the Trojans thanks to Jessica Domenichelli’s goal from Rachel Mercik to topple a Grizzly team that had run the table in the powerful Sierra Foothill League. None of that history mattered once both teams took the field in El Dorado Hills. It was evident early that neither team was going to give it away and sure enough it came down to the last 10 minutes of play. Anna Goddi earned the penalty kick as Granite Bay sweeper Kayla Karlsson cleared out a long ball that found Goddi in the penalty box. Oak Ridge goalkeeper Ashley Pearl came out too aggressively on Goddi and was called for the penalty in the box as Goddi laid on the field with an injured hip. “I didn’t really see her coming. I was just trying to get a touch on the ball and then I looked up and all of a sudden saw her coming at me,” Goddi said . “I just got blasted and fell on the ground. I was kind of hurting there for a while because I’ve done that a lot. It was definitely a foul and I’m glad it happened because we got the goal from it.” Cooper stepped in once Goddi was cleared off the field with the help of Granite Bay coach Chris Roberts. “I was really focused on getting side netting,” Cooper said. “I figured [Pearl] would go that way because I lined up there. I was nervous and excited because I knew as soon as he blew the whistle we put the game into my hands. I’ve always wanted to be able to put it away like that and it was amazing.” Having just squashed any doubt of whether or not his team deserved to be in the playoffs, Roberts said his biggest emotion was pride as he walked off the field in the Oak Ridge stadium. “My girls matched Oak Ridge’s intensity in the first half and at halftime they found that extra gear and kicked it up,” Roberts said. “It was clear within the first five to 10 minutes of the second half that we had control of the game. Regardless of whether it was a PK or a shot on goal, I honestly feel that we won that second half and deserved to have that goal.” In the second half Oak Ridge came out with an eye on goal attacking Granite Bay goalkeeper Keslie Cooper yet again. On the other side of the field Pearl didn’t see many shots on frame, but Cooper had to have her hands ready for a skilled Trojan front line. “I knew that they had great players like Rachel (Mercik) and I was scared of her for sure, but going into this I know my abilities and I know that I can play a good game for my team,” Cooper said. Keslie Cooper displayed the veteran knowledge necessary to keep the Trojans out of goal. “It’s a hard job,” Cooper said. “As a goalie I can only control the ball once it’s in my hands. I was ready, playing well, I’m fit and focused and I know my team’s behind me.” While the Trojans got off more shots than Granite Bay in the second half they couldn’t capitalize on a number of free kicks and corners. Near the 60th minute Oak Ridge had a number of opportunities on goal. Mercik had the best chance as she dribbled around and cut back nearly all of Granite Bay’s defenders. Her cross made it perfectly to the head of Carissa Rivers on the far post, but the finish was a touch too strong over the crossbar. At times in the match it looked like the Grizzlies might not be able to match the on-ball skill of Mercik, Rivers and the rest of the midfield and forwards. They took advantage of their opportunities at goal when they came and it now has them headed to the semifinal round. Granite Bay will find a familiar foe waiting in the stadium at Folsom High Wednesday night. Roseville defeated Vista del Lago 2-1 in overtime Friday to earn the right to meet the Grizzlies. The two teams split two regular season SFL meetings with Granite Bay winning the first 2-1 at home and then losing the second 1-0 at Roseville. In that 1-0 loss Granite Bay lost junior captain Chelsea Putman to a torn ligament in her knee that required surgery shortly after. “I was just so happy that we got to beat them (Oak Ridge) because of last year’s game,” Putman said. “My teammates are telling me they’re doing this for me and it’s just such a great feeling since I’m not able to play. Even though it wasn’t the greatest season it’s great to come together at the end of year like this.” Oak Ridge finishes their season 11-4-3 before entering playoffs including 9-2-1 in the Sierra Valley League. Head Coach Henry Reis saw some huge wins this season including 1-0 over top seeded Christian Brothers and 3-0 over Vista del Lago. Reis graduates seven senior starters and will look to fill some big shoes at Oak Ridge. He returns six juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen, including Rivers.