By GERARDO RECINOS
Last year’s young Bulldog squad crashed out of the playoffs in a rough way, and said goodbye to a couple of senior leaders. So it was expected that this year would be a transition year for Coach Frank Reichert.
The Dragon’s didn’t qualify for last year’s North Coast Section playoffs, but it was clear they were up for the challenge, and forced the Bulldogs to take it to overtime before Alhambra emerged victorious 9-7 on Wednesday, Sept. 2.
In contrast to the boys, who fell behind early, the girls opened up a 4-1 lead in a fast-paced first period.
Junior Daria Dragevic scored twice off assists from Sarah Exner and Katie Christman. Exner also assisted Bella Hurt’s opening goal with 4:08 in the period before scoring herself off a long pass from goalkeeper Anna Bernard.
The Dragons didn’t give up though, and made sure the deficit going into the half was only two goals. Twice they would score in transition as the Bulldog offense was caught pushing too far up the pool, leaving themselves vulnerable on the counter attack.
Katie Christman converted her five-meter penalty to open up the second half of play, but relentless play from O’Dowd kept them within reaching distance.
On four consecutive possessions, the Dragons held Alhambra scoreless. Although they couldn’t find the back of the net themselves, their defensive stands were indicative of a tactical shift. O’Dowd switched into a more pressing defense and it worked, causing turnovers and allowing them to launch counter attacks.
A shot from the halfway mark by Caitlen Moser brought O’Dowd to within one goal as the clock expired in the third period. Her shot brought a great wave of awe from the Gold and Black clad Dragon supporters.
They capitalized on an ejection of Alhambra’s Exner to draw level with the Bulldogs, but fell behind almost instantly from Dragevic’s third goal of the game.
With only 48 seconds left on the clock, Miranda Sinsheimer scored off a Dragon counter attack to give O’Dowd hope yet that they could steal the result.
Christman hit the frame of goal with seconds on the clock to give way to overtime. With the boys in the pool waiting for their game to start, the Lady Bulldogs had all the momentum in their hands.
But still there was work to be done, and while goals from Hurst and Christman ultimately sealed the victory, it was Anna Bernard who played the biggest part in her team’s win.
The junior netminder who made a brilliant double save in the fourth period topped that feat by saving from point blank range with 1:42 on the clock in the second overtime period.
Not long after, Alhambra was able to escape from their first game with a win that will be all too important for the young Bulldog squad.
The Bulldogs will have a short break before a big tournament coming over the next weekend in Pinole.