Seven years and six EYL titles later, those sentiments have changed.
The Lady Spartans clinched first place in the EYL for the fourth year in a row on Thursday, defeating Woodlake High 4-1 on their home pitch. Woodlake is the only other school in the EYL to win a league title since Strathmore came over from the East Sierra League.
For Strathmore Head Coach Hector Gonzalez and the rest of his team, this year’s title run will always hold a special place in their hearts. Gonzalez added eight talented sophomores to his varsity roster this year, and knew he had a good team, but was’t sure what to expect from his squad heading into the season.
Tragically, about a month into the campaign— right as the winter break was about to begin - sophomore Samantha Oliveira’s father passed away after a traffic accident.
Oliveira stayed on with the Lady Spartans, and continued to play. Since Jan. 8, the Strathmore girls have been on a 10 game winning-streak, out-scoring their opponents 70-6.
The Lady Tigers came into Thursday’s game sitting in second place in the EYL with a 4-1-2 league record, and had to come away from Strathmore with a win if they were to have any hope of catching up.
Strathmore opened up play with a quick goal from junior Rosalinda Platas in the first minute. However, Woodlake was able to answer and tie the game at 1-1 after Lady Spartans’ goalie Judith Uribe got caught too high up in her box, allowing Woodlake’s strikers to get in behind her.
The game remained tied at 1-1 heading into the half, which was a situation the Lady Spartans had not been in, in quite a while. However, the second half would be a different story, as Strathmore’s relentless pressure on the Lady Tigers’ half of the pitch eventually took its toll.
The Lady Spartans added three goals in the second half, holding Woodlake to none. Taylor Alkire put her team ahead 2-1 early on, and Platas got her second goal of the game on a penalty kick.
Strathmore was finally able to capitalize on one of the numerous corner kicks, for their fourth goal. Alkire sent a beauty right to her teammate Vanessa “Trigger” Lopez, who headed the ball perfectly into the back of net, to secure the win and the league title for her team.
Oliveira suffered an early injury, but was able to get back onto the pitch and finish the game with her teammates.
“Honestly, this team has been there for me ever since everything happened, and I can’t thank them enough,” Oliveira said. “They dedicated this season to my dad, and I just hope that (we do well) for the rest of season, and have a good run in the playoffs to get that Valley ring.”
Strathmore still has to play Sierra Pacific at home on Feb. 10 and closes out the regular season at Corcoran High on Feb. 12.
“This means a lot because we’re a small school,” Gonzalez said. “Some said that we shouldn’t be in this league because we were to small, and didn’t have what it takes to win. That was many years ago, but now we’ve proved that we belong in this league.” Gonzalez continued, “But this year, especially with Sam and her father passing away, everybody decided that it was going to be a special season. We knew we had a good team before that, but it seemed like everyone turned it up a notch.”
With the win, Strathmore advances to 16-2-1 on the season and 8-0 in the EYL, while Woodlake slips to 7-6-2 overall and remains in second place at 4-2-2.
Score By Halves
WHS: 1 0 - 1
SHS : 1 3 - 4
Goals: Strathmore - Rosalinda Platas, 2; Taylor Alkire; Vanessa Lopez
Posted: Friday, February 6, 2015 6:00 am
BY TRENTON LIVELY email@example.com