By Bruce Gallaudet
DAVIS — What Oak Ridge High girls soccer coach Joe Champion called a “good journey” has ended.
Despite Wednesday night’s 1-0 road loss to No. 1-seed Davis, the Trojans had exceeded all expectations.
Coming off a 6-9-5 campaign in 2012, Oak Ridge (12-5-3) served notice in March when it upset rival Ponderosa, a school that at the time was ranked second in the nation.
The Trojans went on to twice tie powerhouse St. Francis, finish second in Delta River League play and then fought all the way to the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals before coming up short.
“We didn’t quite get our rhythm,” Champion said. “We gave up a poor goal and they got to dictate the pace. That first goal in a game like this is big.
“We had a really good record. Our goal was to make the playoffs. To be in the Final Four was amazing,” Champion continued. “We are a young team. Hopefully we’ll be able to stay together and come back next year and try it again.”
In the season finale, Davis got that “poor goal” when freshman midfielder Gaby Herrera scored at 11:04 (thanks to a long entry pass from Sophia Hernandez.
By Champion’s admission, Oak Ridge started slow. Playing with the wind at their backs, the Blue Devils outshot the Trojans 9-1 in the first half. Delta Valley Conference co-champ Davis (20-4-1) missed four corner kicks and kept the ball in its attack zone a majority of the initial 40 minutes.
Thanks to defender Lauren Whited and goalkeeper Nina Grimes, the damage wasn’t worse. After intermission Oak Ridge engaged the battle as Carisa Rivers began winning the middle, Anna Lippuner reversed Devil momentum with strong play and Whited – on three occasions – rejected meaningful Davis shots while playing solid backline defense.
At 44:52, Whited almost tied the game with her set piece from 15 yards out but Davis goalie Maddy Purves adjusted and maintained the slim lead. With 10 minutes remaining, Oak Ridge had its best look at scoring when Caitlin Hoversten’s long service into the box glanced off a scrum of a half-dozen Devil and Trojan combatants and hit the left upright.
From there, it was back-and-forth as the physical game’s pace quickened – both defenses holding sway allowing Davis to advance to Saturday’s championship game.
“The quality of effort and fire was there,” Champion said, adding he was proud of his girls’ accomplishments.
Notes: The Trojans won two CIF titles (2007 and 2009) in D-II before moving up. …Davis and Oak Ridge have a lot of history: the Devils are 4-1-1 with the Trojans’ 2-1 win coming in ’08. …With its 6-2-2 DRL record, Oak Ridge finished second in the DRL (behind St. Francis) with Ponderosa fading to third. …Franklin beat the Troubadors, 1-0, on Wednesday, setting up the all Delta Valley Conference final.