Sobrato High field hockey coach Madeline Peterson has seen the game grow from the time she played at Christopher High, which wasn’t that long ago.
“You can go to Dick’s Sporting Goods store and they have field hockey equipment,” she said. “When I played, they didn’t have that. So I’d like to think the game continues to grow.”
The game is thriving in the South Valley area, where Sobrato, Live Oak, Gilroy, Christopher and San Benito all field teams. There are 32 girls in Sobrato’s field hockey program, comprising the varsity and junior varsity teams. Peterson said that number is up from a year ago, when she was the head coach of the JV squad. Taking over the varsity team this season, Peterson knows it’ll be a year of transition considering how many players were lost due to graduation from the 2018 squad.
Still, she’s optimistic that the team can establish a rhythm and coalesce in the second half of the Blossom Valley League Mount Hamilton Division season. In a 2-0 loss to Leland Monday, the Bulldogs couldn’t keep the ball away from its own goal cage. Leland totaled nearly a dozen penalty corner plays, often times swarming the Sobrato cage and goalkeeper Tori Echelberry.
“It wasn’t our best game and it wasn’t our worst—it was our second game,” Peterson said. “Obviously, we need to get better, but considering what happened in pregame warm-up, the girls came back from it and played well at times.”
Sara Romero, a starter, took a stick to the eyebrow during warm-ups and even though she didn’t play in the game, Peterson said, “she took it like a champ.” More than anything, Peterson has a goal for this year’s team to establish an identity it can take into next season, which should be a strong one from a won-loss standpoint. That’s because Sobrato will only graduate two seniors off this year’s team, meaning should everyone return—and that’s a big if given the nature of high school sports—in 2020, Sobrato will be a formidable group.
“We lost a lot of players (from last year’s team), but a good goal would be to have more wins than losses this season,” Peterson said. “I hope the second half of the season we can really come together and blossom. And we can come back next year better than ever.”
Even though Leland had the better of the possession, Sobrato had a couple of golden scoring chances. Lily Finegan made a strong run to get 1-on-1 with a defender near the Leland goal and got off a shot that was kicked away by the Leland goalie midway through the first half. A couple of minutes later, Finegan was on the move again, streaking to the Leland goal and finding space after beating her defender.
Kendall Storlie delivered a terrific cross to the front, and Finegan got her stick on it before firing a shot that went wide right. Idalia Lopez made her presence felt in the second half, producing some strong runs down the left side and creating a couple of scoring chances. Emily Valella and Samantha Loi also were around the ball making plays, whether it was helping the team keep possession of the ball or clearing the ball out of their own zone.
Valella has one of the hardest swings on the team, and her power was on display against Leland. The Bulldogs were often on the defensive, and Valella sent the ball a good 20 to 30 yards the other way whenever Leland made a charge to the Sobrato cage or when the ball was on the Sobrato end and needed to be cleared. Scoring issues can plague several high school field hockey teams, and the Bulldogs aren’t alone in that regard.
They’ve scored only one goal in two matches, and Peterson chalks some of that to being early in the season. Peterson said plenty of players on the team have the potential to score, including Finegan, Storlie, Lopez, Valella and Samantha Duran. The team spends plenty of time in practice shooting and creating scoring opportunities. Peterson said she likes this year’s group and looks forward to seeing how the season unfolds.