As the saying goes, “better late than never” and that was certainly the case for the Torrey Pines field hockey team Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 12. After battling visiting No. 6 seed Mission Vista for more than 59 scoreless minutes, the third-seeded Falcons got a goal from junior Hailey Dewey with just 37 seconds remaining in regulation to prevail, 1-0, in the CIF Open Division quarterfinals.
The victory, the 13th in a row for 22-3 Torrey Pines, sends first-year Coach Courtney Spleen’s squad into Thursday’s road semi-final against perennial powerhouse and second-seeded Serra. The winner of that contest advances to Saturday’s section championship (3 p.m.), also at Serra, against the winner of top-seeded Scripps Ranch vs. No. 4 La Jolla. Mission Vista’s season concludes at 15-7-1.
“That was really exciting,” smiled Spleen, whose team also had a 1-0 regular season triumph over Mission Vista. “We were telling our team all game that it would come down to who wants it more and who’s willing to fight.
“I was stressing a little bit towards the end. It’s hard, in the playoffs. You’re not subbing as much and the girls are in there a little longer than they’re used to but we had a good lineup flowing, the girls were playing well together and if it’s working, you don’t want to interrupt it too much.”
To the chagrin of Spleen, her squad displayed the same frustrating tendency of dominating the run-of-play without putting the ball in the cage. The Falcons clearly won the numbers game, earning 18 penalty corners to just one for the Timberwolves and outshooting their opponent, 12-1. But prior to Dewey’s heroics, there was nothing to show for it and the unique field hockey overtime scenario (full field 7v7 followed by a shootout, if necessary) was looming.
The decisive sequence started when freshman Smilla Klas played a contested ball just inside the right sideline, carried it toward the goal and fed it inside. The Falcons got a shot on goal during a free-for-all out front and the rebound went off the stick of freshman Stella Mikolajewski. The ball ended up right in front of Dewey who took a short swing and deposited it in the lower left corner of the cage.
“We’d beaten them before so we had the mindset that we could do it again,” said Dewey afterward. “We’ve also had OT before and I don’t think we wanted it again.
“We’d been so close through the entire game and we just wanted to finish it. When we saw there was about a minute and a half to go, we were like ‘this is it, we have to get it,’ and we did.”
It was the 10th goal of the fall for the passionate Dewey, who is typically the most demonstrative Falcon in any celebration and she enjoyed herself with this one.
“I’m always jumping, getting excited,” she laughed. “It was so nice, that feeling as I watched it go in. That feeling, it was magnificent and then everyone else just started screaming.
“We definitely needed it because so much anxiety was built up. We had so many shots, almost getting it then finally, less than a minute left—it was great.”
While Spleen was definitely pleased with the outcome, it was evident she would have preferred the outcome to have been determined long before it was.
“In the playoffs, it doesn’t matter what your record it or where you’re ranked,” she said. “It all comes down to who shows up on the field that day. Mission Vista is a super aggressive team and were tough for us to break down.
“What happened out there today has been a struggle with us for a while—getting down there in our attacking zone and just not finishing it. That’s something we’re going to have to work on in practice tomorrow and hopefully put those shots away Thursday.”
The Serra team the Falcons will battle in the semi-finals is the same one that has captured 10 CIF banners and been to all but one CIF championship match since 2002 under Head Coach Laurie Berger. The Conquistadors are also the outfit that early in the season handed Torrey Pines two of its three losses by an astounding combined score of 14-1. Outside of Serra, Torrey Pines has out-scored the rest of its schedule to the tune of 69-8.
According to Tuesday’s star, it might be foolish to write off the Falcons based on those defeats. “We’ve had a hard time in the past against Serra but we’ve come such a long way this season,” said Dewey. “It’s great being able to come back and play them again—we’ve improved so much. We’re excited for the opportunity.”