After a couple of close losses, first-year Sobrato head coach Mike Niehoff sensed that his field hockey team was knocking on the door of success.
The Bulldogs loosened the handle last week in a 1-0 defeat to Leigh High School - a contest in which Niehoff felt his team played well enough for the victory.
On Tuesday in their West Valley Division opener, the Bulldogs busted through the deadbolt and let themselves right though, registering a season high three goals in a 3-1 triumph over visiting University (San Francisco) at the Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Complex.
It is the first victory for Sobrato this season.
“It's nice to get that monkey off of our backs,” Niehoff said. “It has been a building process. The girls have to create their own good luck. Today we were able to create opportunities in open space.”
Leading into league play, Sobrato had struggled to produce goals - netting just one in its first five games. But on Tuesday, the Bulldogs looked the part of an offensive juggernaut, manufacturing scoring chances with pinpoint passing.
“Our give-and-go passing was good,” forward Ramnique Randhawa said. “We did a lot of crossing to the goal and had some good passes to the top to get shots.”
The chances came early and often in the first half. Randhawa split a pair of defenders in the circle, but her backhand shot was kicked aside. Later, Elizabeth Tran's pass into the circle earned a short-corner try and Randhawa nearly capitalized on the special teams play. Her laser shot was stopped before reaching its final destination.
The third time proved the charm for Randhawa, though, as a steal at midfield by Kate Van Keulen started a rush. Sydnee Sorce's initial shot was saved, but there was Randhawa to deposit the rebound for a Bulldogs 1-0 lead with 13 minutes to play in the half.
Alex Diaz, Maria Ciccone and Randi Emmons all had shots on goal in the second half as the Bulldogs remained the aggressor in their zone. And at the tail end of the first half, Sorce got one of her own, slicing to her right with nifty stick handling to open a lane to the net. Her strong forehand shot found the bottom, right corner of the cage for a 2-0 advantage.
“That is something we have worked on with her, pulling the ball across and looking for a shot,” Niehoff said. “She couldn't do that six weeks ago.”
Randhawa padded the cushion with her second of the afternoon midway through the second half.
The Bulldogs defense fended off a pair of University short-corners, before surrendering a late goal.
“The kids have seen the progress,” Niehoff said. “They know defensively they have gotten stronger. They know they are creating opportunities they have never had before.”
Sobrato has a week off before resuming league play at San Jose High School on Tuesday.