Puma girls impress out-of-state team

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

David Wolff, coach of Tennessee’s reigning Div. II champ Houston High, has watched a lot of soccer in his time and in his opinion, the current Maria Carrillo team is the best he’s seen.

Wolff was searching for superlatives on Saturday after witnessing the Pumas easily defeat his team, 5-1. The loss ended a whirlwind trip through Sonoma County for the Tennessee team. On Thursday, the Mustangs defeated Windsor, 3-1, and on Friday, they played current North Bay League champ Montgomery to a 1-1 double overtime tie.

“Maria Carrillo is the best team I’ve seen,” Wolff said. “Their offense exploited our defense. We couldn’t stop them.”

His opinion of the Pumas’ field was just the opposite.

“It’s the worst soccer field I’ve seen,” he said. “It’s as bad as the rough at a U.S. Open golf tournament. It’s so thick, it really slows play down. We were surprised it was in such bad shape. It’s like farm land.”

Carrillo coach Debra LaPrath was apologetic the field was so thick and uneven. She said she and other Carrillo coaches have made repeated requests to the Santa Rosa school district to improve conditions.

Houston figured to be fatigued Saturday, given the trouble they had flying west and then playing three consecutive days. The team from Germantown expected to fly out of nearby Memphis airport at 6 a.m. last Thursday.

However, the flight was canceled because their plane was grounded in Dallas. The party of 49, including parents, could not all be booked together on a later flight. The first team and the coaches waited nearly six hours for a flight to Chicago and then changed planes for the ride to San Francisco. The remainder of the group left mid-afternoon for Dallas where they caught a flight to San Francisco. The second group didn’t make it to the Windsor game until halftime.

While Houston was looking fatigued and possibly suffering from jet lag, Carrillo had fresh legs. By halftime, the Pumas were ahead 4-0. Junior Sara Tosti had three goals and freshman Sarah Sullivan added another.

“Tosti is a great player,” Wolff said. “She finishes everything.”

Tosti’s first goal came when the goal keeper blocked her shot and she was able to convert the rebound. The second came when she outsprinted the defender and then whizzed it past the goalie. The hat trick came on a shot from 18 yards.

“We were able to adjust to their defense on the front line and that opened it up for us,” Tosti said. “We’re a young team and starting to come together.”

Madison Minton scored for the final goal after halftime and Kayle Thorpe got Houston’s only goal.
Carrillo, with only six seniors, will definitely contend for the NBL title.

“Needless to say, it feels good to beat a state champ,” LaPrath said. “We had a couple of players out with the flu and a couple of others saw limited action because of injury. We’re coming along.”

This was the third time in 10 years Houston High has come west to open its season. This year, it cost $800 per player to make the trip and fundraising made travel possible. The girls did car washes, taught at junior camps and had a flower sale.

Ten seniors, including six starters, graduated after winning the state title.

“This will get us ready for our league,” Wolff said. “It’s tough playing on the road against three good teams on consecutive days, but this makes us stronger. The coaches can see our weaknesses and what we have to work on. We have a game back in Tennessee on Thursday.”

Today, the Houston contingent will tour San Francisco and fly home on Monday.

Next year, Maria Carrillo will be making a trip to Tennessee, where Houston will be waiting for a rematch. The Pumas also made a trip to Memphis in 2006.