Mother Nature didn’t do the Mountain View High girls soccer team any favors Friday.
A case could be made that the rain prior to Friday night’s Central Coast Section Open Division final – and drizzle during the match at Santa Clara University’s Buck Shaw Field – played a role in the Spartans’ 1-0 loss to Mitty.
The soggy pitch seemed to hinder Mountain View’s controlled attack more than it did the Monarchs’ long-ball approach, and it also likely hurt goalie Renee Landa’s chances of saving the game-winning shot. The junior leaped to her right to stop Svea Neunfinger’s booming shot from just outside the penalty area, but it went off her fingertips and into the back of the net in the 33rd minute.
“It was a good strike, but the wet ball slipped off both of her hands,” Spartans coach Ivan Bandov said. “It was unfortunate, but sometimes that happens (in those kind of conditions).”
The damp conditions also made it hard for second-seeded Mountain View (21-2) to generate many chances against No. 1 Mitty (20-1-2). Monarchs goalie Amy Stineman batted down a long free kick 10 minutes into the game, and the Spartans came up empty on back-to-back corner kicks 20 minutes later. Lucy Tang’s second corner found its way to Mia Polcyn in front of the goal, but a defender deflected her shot.
“That’s the best defensive team we’ve played all year,” Bandov said.
The Spartans had two good chances in the second half: Bethan Parry hit the crossbar on a shot from just inside the penalty box in the 51st minute, and Nicole Bumgarner drilled a 20-yard attempt to the right side of the goal that was saved by a diving Stineman.
While Bumgarner conceded that “Mitty played well defensively,” she also noted that the rainy weather wasn’t conducive to her team’s offensive strategy.
“It was difficult to play our passing game on the wet, slippery field,” she said.
And with it, the opportunity to win back-to-back Open Division crowns slipped out of the Spartans’ hands.
“They were disappointed; there were a few tears,” Bandov said of the postgame meeting with his team, which beat Mitty 3-1 in last year’s title game. “The seniors really wanted it. But it’s nice that we still have NorCals.”
Mountain View has made the inaugural Northern California playoffs as the third seed in Division I. The Spartans were scheduled to open at home against No. 6 Granite Bay (17-3-3) Tuesday, after the Town Crier’s press deadline. The winner advances to Thursday’s semifinals at the home of the higher seed.
No matter what happens, expect senior midfielder Bumgarner – who fought through injury to play in Friday’s game – to look back fondly on what the Spartans accomplished this season.
“I’m incredibly proud of this team,” the co-captain said. “Every year you have to incorporate new players into the system and develop chemistry on and off the field. New and veteran players stepped up every game. We won league and although we didn’t win, we made it to the Open Division CCS finals again – that’s not too bad.”
“I told them after the game that I hope they wake up (Saturday) and realize how great of a season they’ve had,” he said.