Encinal Women’s Soccer Season Ends; Earn Playoff Victory First

Jonah Abrami--The Encinal Jets celebrate their first NCS playoff win in school history.

Encinal Women’s Soccer Season Ends; Earn Playoff Victory First

The Encinal High School (EHS) women’s soccer team was eliminated from the North Coast Section (NCS) Div. III playoffs after their 3-1 quarterfinal loss to the Branson School of Ross Saturday, Feb. 19.

The ninth-seeded Jets were unable gain any momentum after the one-seeded Bulls scored an early goal in the match. Branson freshman Ally Hsieh scored a goal in the third minute of match and the Bulls controlled the rest of the way.

The Jets’ offense could not penetrate the Bulls’ defense in the first half. EHS attempted just three shots-on-goal in the first half with the first not coming until the 14th minute of the game. None of the Jets’ attempts threatened the Bulls’ goalkeeper. Branson padded its lead with a header by senior Anna Lardner.

EHS gave a free goal to Branson on an own goal a few minutes into the second half. Branson led 3-0 after the EHS mistake. The Jets finally got on the scoreboard late in the game on a penalty kick by junior Marissa Lekashman.

“This season means a lot to me; it’ll most likely be the last time I ever play competitive soccer, but I think it was a great year to end on,” said EHS senior Talula Wilmot.

The playoff loss does not negate the many season highlights for the Jets including a NCS playoff victory that was decided in a shootout.

The Jets knocked off ninth-seed West County High of Sebastopol in the NCS first round on Feb. 15 at Willie Stargell Field. The match was tied, 1-1, at the end of regulation. In the shootout Lekashman stepped up to take the biggest penalty of her soccer career.

“I was honestly pretty calm about it,” said Lekashman. “I just kept telling myself that I was going to make it because I would start to doubt myself if I said otherwise. I didn’t want to put the possibility that I wasn’t going to make it out in the universe.”

The game was tied, nil-nil, at halftime. EHS junior Angie St. Denis scored the first goal of the match midway through the second half. She took advantage of a Jets’ corner and headed home the goal.

“It felt amazing because that was the first time I have scored in an NCS playoff game. It felt great to score for my team and hear people cheering in the stands,” said St. Denis.

St. Denis was injured in the season finale against Hayward High School and almost didn’t play in the playoff game. With less than 10 minutes in the game, West County was awarded a questionable penalty, which the Tigers converted to tie the game, 1-1. A scoreless overtime pushed the match to shootouts.

EHS junior Sadie Merry scored the Jets’ first penalty, but the relief didn’t last long as West County scored their shot as well. St. Denis’ kick was saved by West County, but Jet sophomore goalie Ila Cantrell made a key save as well.

“Going into shootouts is always nerve-racking, especially for the goalie but Ila did so great and I’m so proud of her, we all are,” said Merry.

The Jets’ season ends with a 12-3-2 overall record.

Alameda High School
The Alameda High School women's soccer team lost, 5-0, to Campolindo High of Moraga in the NCS Div. II women's quarterfinal Friday, Feb. 18. They Defeated Concord High School, 3-0, in the first round. The Hornets season ends with a 9-3-4 overall record.

Jonah Abrami    Junior Marissa Lekashman slots home the game-winning penalty against West County.

Katherine Mejia and Gabby Benaquista contributed to this article.