For a team struggling to win soccer games, the smallest successes can become highlights of a season. For the Richmond High School girls’ soccer team, the week provided two of those highlights.
On Thursday night, in the Oilers’ final match of the regular season, the girls did something they had not done all season: They had a lead.
In the ninth minute of the Richmond High Oilers’ match against the St. Joseph-Notre Dame Pilots at the College of Alameda, junior Maria Navarro scored, putting the Oilers in front 1-0. Navarro received a lead pass from freshman Rebecca Paz, ran into the open space between the Pilots’ goal and last line of defense and flicked the ball past the goalkeeper into the net.
From the sideline, Richmond head coach Felipe Franco had to take a second to comprehend what had happened. “Did she score?” he asked. Once his question was answered he dropped to his knees, lifted his hands above his head and yelled, “Finally!”
Franco refocused and yelled to his girls “be ready” as they now had to play to protect the lead. The Oilers did so for the next 15 minutes, but after pressuring the Oilers’ goal, possession after possession, the Pilots finally broke through on a goal by senior Michelle Seiwald, her first of three. Seiwald cut through the Oilers’ defense, controlling the ball and finding the open space, before kicking it past junior goalkeeper Eleana Ellner.
At the end of the first half, Seiwald and Ellner met again; the Pilots’ forward had a breakaway opportunity, after receiving a pass in open space and outrunning the Oiler defenders, but was a denied a goal by a sliding Ellner.
The save gave Franco, and his players, confidence, as they went into the half tied 1-1. “The only comment I have is the following: You have to be very strong, and if you can do that, you can make it,” Franco said to his team.
But the second half of the game did not go as smoothly for the Oilers as the first.
Early on in the half, sophomore Yessenia Vasquez had an asthma attack during play, and had to be taken off the field by Franco and one of her teammates. While Franco was crouched down beside Vasquez on the sidelines, with his back to the play, the Pilots scored. Without Vasquez, the Oilers’ strong defender, Seiwald was able to find an opening in Richmond’s defense to push the score to 2-1 in the 46th minute.
Vasquez was able to recover, and returned later in the match.
In the 63rd minute Seiwald completed the hat trick for the Pilots giving them a 3-1 advantage on the Oilers. That held up as the final score.
After the loss, Franco’s words to his team were positive. “Believe it or not, you guys did great today,” Franco said. “I saw a big improvement. Even though you lost 3-1, you guys did great.”
For a team that now owns a 0-20 record, not much has gone right on the soccer field for the Oilers this season. But after the match, Franco and his players were smiling and laughing, as if they had won.
This was fueled by news that Franco received on Wednesday. Previously, Franco had expected the match against the Pilots to be the last of the season. But even with his team’s record, the Richmond girls still qualified for the Tri-County Athletic League playoffs, extending the Oilers’ season—and chances for a win—by at least one more match. The Oilers’ opponent, time and location for the match are still yet to be determined.
“We are extremely excited,” said Paz, after the match. “We didn’t get any wins this year, but hopefully we will get a win in the playoffs.”