By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Maria Carrillo girls were heavily favored in the North Coast Section Division 1 soccer championship game, but they went into the locker room at halftime trailing Montgomery 1-0 on a disputed goal.
Faced with a deficit for the first time during their stellar campaign, just 40 minutes away from seeing their dream of an undefeated season wiped out, the Pumas might have come unglued. It didn’t happen.
“We went in at halftime, and I said, ‘This is the last time I will wear No. 11 as a Puma. We’re here to kick butt and win this game,’” recalled senior forward Katie Mohr. “I think at that moment the whole team got together and said, ‘We can do this.’”
There wasn’t much Maria Carrillo couldn’t do this season. The Pumas came back to beat Monty 3-1, capping a 20-0 season. In addition to capturing the NCS crown, they were recognized as the top-ranked team in the nation among schools that play fall soccer. Mohr was the dominant player on this dominant team, and she is The Press Democrat’s Large School Player of the Year.
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“She scored four goals against us in two games,” Analy coach Joseph Heil said. “She’s a ridiculous player, definitely in the national team pool. To me, she made the difference in our games with them. Katie is a dynamic scorer, very opportunistic.”
It was sometimes hard to judge
Mohr’s worth because the Pumas were so loaded with talent. They had five girls on the North Bay League first team, and one of them, defender Ali Schaffer, was as important to the back line as Mohr was to the front. But opponents knew if they wanted any shot of taming the Pumas, they’d have to take Mohr out of the game.
That was easier said than done.
Mohr’s combination of strength, footwork and mental anticipation made her a constant scoring threat. She finished with 17 goals and 13 assists.
“She clearly leads by example with her skills,” Maria Carrillo coach
Debra LaPrath said. “That kid can turn on a dime. She can have her back to the goal and be getting fouled while she turns, and get off an unbelievable shot on goal.”
More important, Mohr emerged as the leader her coach always thought she would be. LaPrath focuses on team building every year, usually with much success. This year’s team was exceptional, though, thanks to leaders like Mohr and Schaffer. They had pasta feeds every week, kept binders with inspirational quotes and went to a haunted house en masse for Halloween.
“It was so cute,” Mohr said. “The seniors were protecting the freshmen.”
“Katie, she really leads by example with her work ethic,” LaPrath said. “She’s not always vocal, but when she is, she gets straight to the point. She puts the team on her shoulders and says, ‘We’re not playing up to par. This is not acceptable.’ She’s the kind of leader you hope to groom.”
Mohr is headed to Arizona State in the fall, but won’t be leaving the family atmosphere entirely. Waiting for her in Tempe is Sara Tosti, her best friend since the age of 4 and former Pumas teammate who graduated a year before her. The two spoke by phone multiple times a week during soccer season.
“I cannot wait,” Mohr said. “I’m so excited. I’m training every day, lifting weights, running, preparing as much as possible.”
Playing Pac-12 soccer will be a huge challenge. But Mohr enters the transition with a strong foundation, built upon a final high school season that realized all of her dreams.
“It’s definitely the best way to end your senior year,” she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org.