Saturday, November 28, 2015 • 02:04

VC girls lacrosse team finishes phenomenal season with CIF Division II runner-up trophy

Second to none; classy Jags finish just try of state title.
May 22, 2013
Rivalries usually bring out the best in a team, and the rivalry developing between the varsity girls lacrosse programs from Valley Center and Del Norte is proving to be exceptional.

The Lady Jaguars struggled against the Lady Nighthawks in recent years, but this season has produced three outstanding matches between two very talented teams. In all three match-ups, the final score was 8–7, showing just how evenly-matched the two teams are.

It seemed to be destiny that the final meeting between these two rivals would come in the final game of the season, as the two squared off in the CIF Division II championship game on Saturday at Coronado High School.

During the regular season, each team had beaten the other once, but only by a single goal. The players, coaches and fans knew it would be another nail-biter, but with the championship trophy on the line.

The game once again came down to a single goal, but unfortunately for Valley Center, it was Del Norte that scored the game-winner for another 8–7 final that gave the Lady Nighthawks the title.

"I don't consider it that we fell short," Valley Center head coach Wendy Fiehler said after the game. "We played our best game of the season, and I couldn't ask for more."

The Lady Jags took an early lead in the first half, pulling ahead 3–1 on goals by Kaylin Ryan, Tara Murphy and Alex Velasquez. The team's leading scorer, Savanna Fiehler, faced a constant double-team, but still managed to get free for a shot that beat the Del Norte keeper early in the game, but the goal was taken off the board because of a penalty.

Del Norte fought back with an offensive onslaught that netted the next six goals, giving the Lady Nighthawks a 7–3 lead at halftime.

But in the second half, the Lady Jaguars rallied behind team captain Kelly Bergquist, whose halftime speech to her teammates pulled the team together.

"She's our inspirational leader," Coach Fiehler said of her team captain. "She reminded us all that our best games weren't behind us, and that that's why we're here."

The Lady Jags responded with four consecutive goals that tied the score with 9:20 remaining in the game. Ryan scored the first two of the half, then Fiehler netted one after coming out from behind the net, and Nina Montejano tied the score nearly two minutes later.

But with just over seven minutes remaining, Del Norte finally got the ball away from Valley Center and took off on a fast break that gave them the go-ahead goal.

The Lady Nighthawks effectively played keep-away for the final seven minutes of the game and held on for the championship win.

"We're a small program, so when CIF reorganized the divisions to include the top teams in the open division, it gave smaller teams like ours a chance to compete at a level where the girls could learn, develop and be successful without being overpowered," Coach Fiehler added. "This is the first time Valley Center lacrosse has been to a championship game. We've made it as far as quarterfinals before but never past. The new open league and split of the divisions has helped us get this far. Girls lacrosse in Valley Center is really small—we have had a middle school feeder program for some time but the numbers are very low at this time. The high school team only has the varsity team this year, without a JV team. There are girls who have never played a sport or with just one year of JV under their belt on the same team with girls who have played for several years. But the girls all support each other, no matter what level they're on, and you don't really get that at some of the other larger schools."

Ryan led the Lady Jags in the championship game with three goals, an assist and three draw controls, while Savanna Fiehler added a goal, five ground-ball controls and two draw controls and Murphy, Montejano and Velasquez added a goal each.

For the season, Fiehler racked up 78 goals, 11 assists, 64 ground balls, four interceptions, 27 caused turnovers and 72 draw controls, while Ryan had 47 goals, 22 assists, 25 ground balls and 72 draw controls. Bergquist added 39 goals, six assists, 28 grounds balls, ten interceptions, 18 caused turnovers and 11 draw controls.

And first-year goalkeeper Parris Toedt made 141 saves for the season and allowed 159 goals scored, giving her a save percentage of 47%.

To make it to the title game, the Lady Jaguars played an outstanding game against San Marcos and earned a 10–8 win on the strength of five goals from Bergquist, who delivered another soul-stirring speech to her team after the Lady Jags fell behind by three goals early in the game.

"I didn't want this to be my last game," the senior captain said after the win. "We all want it, so I told them that we all have to work together if we want to keep this season going."

After San Marcos took a 4–1 lead near the midway point of the first half, Valley Center took a timeout and Bergquist immediately called her teammates together to fire them up.

When play resumed, Bergquist led by example, scoring three minutes later after flying around the field with the kind of athletic anger that fuels great players to accomplish great things.

She scored two more goals in the second half, but her example carried over to the rest of the team, and the Lady Jags had four different players score after halftime to build a good lead. Even though the Lady Knights scored the game's final two goals, the Valley Center defense held strong and got the win.

After the game, instead of sharing her thoughts about the game, Coach Fiehler called the team together to share, in their own words, why they play so well together as a team.

"We all use each others' strengths," Kelly Bergquist said.

"When we come together, the intensity goes up, and we want it even more," said Melinda Riley-Olson.

"We work together as a team because we're like a family. That motivates us and we help pick each other up when we're down," said Cierra Serrano.

"We focus on encouraging each other, that's what makes it feel like a family," Amberlee Smith said.

"From the beginning, you could tell we really clicked as a team," said Sara Cortez.

"The reason we've been successful is that we play with a lot of heart—not just to win, but because we love each other and we want each other to succeed. We encourage each other because we want to see everyone play better. You have to have that, you have to give everything you have, you have to forget about yourself and give yourself to help the team grow," said Sophie Kraus.

"Everybody is really caring. Sometimes I'll make this face at you guys, but I know how encouraging you are to everybody on this team, especially to me. That's how we all get through," said Perris Toedt.

"Overall, it was pretty rough at the beginning. But as the season went on, you could see the connections and the trust. We had good communication and positive attitudes, and the encouragement kept us going. You can tell the difference it's made," said Bianka Perez-Pacheco.

Perhaps the best quote of the night came from former VCHS coach Victoria Bausone, who said, "You can see that they're a team that loves to play. They share the load, and that's the definition of teamwork."

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