Longtime Los Altos High field hockey coach Mary Donahue described this season as “different so far” – but in a good way.
The Eagles are off to their best start in more than a decade, with each win moving them closer to their mission to make the Central Coast Section playoffs.
“We’re really shooting for CCS,” Donahue said. “That’s been our goal since we got out there together (in August).”
For seniors like Phoebe Aaronson, the push for the playoffs began even earlier than that.
“It’s been our goal since freshman year,” she said. “It’s cool to see it becoming a reality.”
The team just missed CCS last year, finishing fourth in a Santa Clara Valley Athletic League with three automatic qualifiers. The last time Los Altos participated in the postseason, two of the team’s current players were in kindergarten. That was 2008 – Donahue’s second year on the job.
Those kindergartners are now freshmen who have helped the Eagles start the season 8-1. Both are forwards: Elana Eisenberg is a starter and Lucy Gilbert-Fagen shares time up front.
“I didn’t know the youngsters were so good,” Donahue said. “They are both three-year club players with good stick skills, and they’re fast and fit.”
Aaronson, a sweeper who goes up against Eisenberg and Gilbert-Fagen in practice, has been impressed with them as well.
“They are really talented,” she said. “I think they’ve motivated our other forwards and made us more of a force on offense.”
Eisenberg has three goals and two assists. Only two Eagles have more points: juniors Lisa Larsson (seven goals) and Karenna Olson (two goals, three assists).
Two of Larsson’s goals came in last week’s 2-0 win over Lynbrook.
“She’s been tremendous,” Donahue said. “She’s ridiculously fast and can crush the ball.”
Sophomore Olivia Ih assisted on both of Larsson’s goals, which came off direct corner shots in the Sept. 20 home game.
Goalkeepers Aashna Desai and Sophia Taglio combined for their fifth shutout of the season in Friday’s 2-0 win at Monta Vista. The two split time: junior Desai plays the first half, and senior Taglio takes over in the second.
“They’re both phenomenal,” Aaronson said. “I couldn’t do my job without them.”
Donahue raved not only about her goalies’ abilities, but also how selfless Desai and Taglio have been this season.
“They’re both rock solid,” she said, “and they’re OK with sharing time. There’s no drama – they just want us to be successful this year.”
Center defenders Aaronson and Olson, both returning starters, anchor the Eagles’ back line.
“They are super strong,” Donahue said.
Aaronson and fellow senior defender Tanya Matthew are the team’s co-captains. It’s a role Aaronson takes seriously.
“I try to put the team on my shoulders,” she said. “I want to support the team and do whatever I can to help.”
Aaronson recently helped the Eagles beat St. Francis 2-1 in overtime, notching an assist in the Sept. 5 road game. Los Altos had never before defeated the Lancers.
“That was amazing,” she said of the win. “I burst into tears.”
Winning today’s 4 p.m. home game against Los Gatos – the reigning league and CCS champs – would be tear-worthy, too.
“Everyone’s goal is to beat Los Gatos,” Aaronson said, “but it will take the whole team. Everyone’s going to have to be on their game.”