Piner coach sees silver lining in loss to Montgomery

(Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat) Montgomery's Alyssa Anderson, right, takes the ball past Piner's Cinthya Bernal during their game on Monday afternoon, September 27, 2010.

By HOWARD SENZELL

FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sometimes a team can’t be judged solely on wins and losses. Piner coach Barry Commerford believes his girls soccer team is a perfect example.

Following a 6-0 defeat to visiting Montgomery on Monday, the Prospectors dropped to the bottom of the North Bay League standings and remain winless in nine games this season. In Commerford’s eyes, however, his girls are winners and it’s hard to argue with his thinking.

“These same 15 girls came out for our first practice in August and they haven’t missed a practice or game since,” Commerford said. “They know their skills aren’t on level with the teams we’ve been playing, but they try hard, are supportive of their teammates and most importantly, haven’t given up.”

An example of the Piner spirit came a few minutes after Monday’s defeat in 100-degree heat. One of the girls said she wanted to speak privately with Commerford. When he walked onto the field with his back to the bench, his players quietly walked up behind him with the water bucket and their water bottles and gave him a drenching that’s usually reserved for the winning coach.

“We wanted to show him we like playing for him,” one of the players said.

Commerford is probably the first coach to get soaked after his team lost its first nine games and was outscored, 59-1.

Monday’s game improved Montgomery’s record to 7-2-3 and the Vikings are expected to battle Maria Carrillo and possibly Santa Rosa for the NBL title.

Montgomery took the lead at the five-minute mark on a goal by Megan Dellavalle with an assist from Paige McMahon. By halftime, it was 4-0.

“The outcome wasn’t surprising,” Commerford said. “I think all the Montgomery players are Division 1 club players. We have one girl that plays Division 3 and the others don’t play club ball. Still, we went and did our best and the girls cheered each other on.”

Will the Piner girls program improve in the years ahead?

“It is what it is here,” Commerford said. “It’s a continual struggle. Until just before the season started, we didn’t have enough girls to field a junior varsity team.

“We don’t get the turnout, so it’s hard to build a winning program. The girls that do come out are so dedicated, I could never give up on them in a million years.”

Athletic director Melissa Guanella is proud of the effort being put in by the girls, second-year head coach Commerford and JV coach Mark Pennewell.

“It’s been a struggle here,” Guanella said. “I was encouraged when we got enough players for a junior varsity team. To build a winning program at the varsity level, you have to get the kids playing when they’re freshmen and sophomores. Our goal is certainly to be up there with the better teams in the NBL.”

In the fall, like at other schools, girls soccer is in competition with tennis and volleyball for the female athletes.

Piner gets back in action Wednesday at 5 p.m. when Rancho Cotate comes to town. Montgomery has two more away games this week, Wednesday (5<USSPORTS><TH>p.m.) at Elsie Allen and Friday (7 p.m.) at Ursuline.