Even with a couple of his starters nursing injuries, Fremont Firebirds Head Coach Moris Clark cited senior night festivities as the reason his squad came out slow in the first quarter. Wilcox swam out to a 4-0 lead, eventually winning 9-5.
“I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that it was senior night and so there were a lot of nerves,” noted coach Clark. “I do have one starter who couldn’t play and another starter broke her finger two weeks ago, so I think that may have had something to do with it, but injuries happen. Once we got going, we were in the game.”
The Firebirds battled back to make a game of it, as Wilcox only outscored Fremont by a 5-4 margin over the final three quarters, but the damage was done. If it hadn’t been for the brilliant goaltending by Firebirds’ keeper Britt Vanlerberghe, though, the game would have likely gotten out of hand. The sophomore goalie made a number of strong saves, including one from close range off Wilcox senior captain Marisa Lipari.
“Her growth as a goaltender has been really really cool to watch,” remarked coach Clark on Vanlerberghe. “She’s kept us in a lot of games, her growth has been incredible. I’m really happy and fortunate that she’s playing for us.”
Like her coach, Vanlerberghe wasn’t pleased with her team’s start, something that she alluded to as being a season-long problem.
“We always have an issue with starting off strong,” said the sophomore. “We are acting like our first quarter is more of a warmup.”
Goals from Cara Mason, Ruby Solomon and a hat trick from Shreya Kale, were not enough for the Firebirds to get past the Chargers. Wilcox was once again powered by star junior Justine Garcia, who scored four times. Lipari also added a hat trick, with Makenzie Edwards and Emma Bergren rounding out the scoring for the Chargers.
“We were able to minimize our errors this game,” responded Garcia on any adjustments made from the previous Fremont match, even though Wilcox won that game 9-8. “We played well, we communicated well, we’ve been working our butts off.”
While Vanlerberghe definitely had some noteworthy saves, Wilcox keeper Kaitlyn Wang also came up with a handful of nice stops to her credit at the other end.
“Kaitlyn is amazing,” added Garcia on Wang. “She saves our butts a lot.”
Make no buts about it, Wilcox was on their game from start to finish in this match.
“One of my main focus points was making sure our girls were prepared,” acknowledged Chargers Head Coach Rich Cruzen. “There are a lot of distractions going on today with their senior night and we have the same thing going on this Thursday. So, it’s hard to keep their heads in it, so that was a big thing I focused on today. I knew getting off to a good start would really help us.”