Smiles don’t get much bigger than when they are beaming from the likes of Oakdale seniors Kristen Brunk, Jessica Gomez and Nicole Armstrong.
The three standouts are in the midst of their fourth consecutive varsity season, having been a witness to Oakdale’s first ever conference title and home game under the lights.
After a combined 33-7-7 Valley Oak League record in their prep tenure, the three have plenty of things to smile about.
“It’s been really, really fun,” Gomez (forward) said after practice on March 22. “Especially for the three of us, because we have grown really close over the years.”
It’s been a steady progression for the three girls who played a role in Oakdale’s 9-3-2 season and third place league finish (no playoffs) in 2009. A year later the trio helped Oakdale amass an 11-1-4 record in second place, and watched Oakdale slip 3-2 to eventual Sac-Joaquin Section champs, West Campus, in the Division IV postseason. Last year, the three led Oakdale to an 11-2-1 conference championship and 19-3-4 overall record after a 2-1 postseason effort ended in a 1-0 loss to Sierra in the D-IV finals.
“I was really nervous my frosh year,” Armstrong (defender) said. “As the years went by I relaxed and got used to the team. My junior year we won VOL for the first time. It’s been really cool to be a part of history.”
Oakdale (2-1 VOL, 8-4-3 overall) avenged their section finale loss a season ago with a 3-1 win over visiting Sierra on March 23. Brunk, Izzy Arellano and Jill Kahler all netted first-half scores while Arellano, Alexis Halsey and Kahler managed assists. Jordin Altmann had five saves in the net.
“I think that our team is really good,” Brunk (midfielder) said. “I expect us to go to the playoffs and hopefully get a VOL championship and section championship.”
Traditionally, the teams that do best in the tough VOL will use their battle-tested attributes to do serious work in the postseason. Since 2002, 12 VOL teams have reached the SJS finals and five of those teams have claimed a blue banner. Sierra won titles in 2003, 2004 and 2011 while Sonora stole banners in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Oakdale’s arrival in last year’s finale was the program’s first ever such appearance.
A playoff run requires big performances in conference play, and several VOL teams expect to be in contention for only three seeds into the postseason. Sierra (0-2-1, 4-4-3) graduated just seven of their 29 team member section champions a season ago, but losses to Oakdale and upstart East Union (3-0, 9-1-2) and a tie to Manteca (2-0-1, 8-3-2) has left the Timberwolves in a hole in the conference standings.
Oakdale fell 1-0 to Kimball (2-1, 9-2) on March 19 despite dominating possession, and will need big wins throughout league play to reach the playoffs.
Oakdale shellacked Lathrop (0-2, 2-7-1) on March 21 after four scores by Kahler, two each by Arellano and Markie Arnold and a lone score by Brunk (assist). Gaby Acosta (two assists), Kate Odom, and Sara Siemsen also managed assists in the win while Altmann and Brittany Carpenter combined for three saves in the net.
Arellano (sophomore) is one of 11 underclassmen on the varsity team. She joins classmates Carpenter, Kori Altmann and Katie Homer while freshmen Sierra Lyman, Mackenzie Weiglein, Taylor Rios, Alexis Halsey, Sydney Sudaria, Jazmin Velasquez and Andie Jones also see action.
“We only have eight returning players from last year’s varsity team, so in this situation you have got to pull the best you have from everywhere in the program,” Oakdale coach Alfredo Quiroga said. “It’s not a hard decision to make, you just choose the best from what is available.
“This year the challenge is making the girls believe that they can play well together at a high level despite their different backgrounds and age groups.”
Siemsen and Jordin Altmann join Oakdale’s three four-year varsity players on the list of OHS seniors. They are supported by standout juniors Odom (defender), Kahler (forward), Arnold (forward), Acosta (midfielder) and Jordyn Cooley (midfielder).
Kahler (11 goals), Arnold (five) and Arellano (five) lead 2012 scorers. Kahler led Oakdale with 20 goals a season ago while Arnold nabbed 12. Oakdale is without junior midfield star Kerri Feuerstein (16 goals, nine assists in 2011), who tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) late in 2011. Feuerstein is expected to return for her senior season in 2013.
Oakdale was at East Union for a battle atop the conference standings on Monday, but results were not available at press time. The Mustangs are at Weston Ranch today, March 28.
The JV girls have played solid throughout the campaign to date and ended the week with a 2-0-1 mark in league play with a 7-0 thumping of Lathrop on March 21 and a hard fought 1-1 tie with Sierra on Friday, March 23. Goals in the shutout of Lathrop came fast and furious, with a three goal edge within the first five minutes of play. Coach Jaime Martinez then shuffled the line-up a bit to give players a different experience and back off the scoring barrage. Oakdale’s first goal came from Christina Bradshaw on an assist from Danae Rose just seconds into the game. Rose found the net next on an assist from defender Ally Jackson and goal three was by Rose, assist by Bradshaw.
Later in the first half, Denise Thompson notched a goal on a double assist, Gabby Longoria to Kenzie Sluggett. Second half scoring came from defender Katelyn Jackson, starting as forward in that half, from Bradshaw and an unassisted goal from Thompson.Rounding out the scoring was Rose, who took the assist from Jackie Vega for the final tally.
Friday, the team fell behind Sierra, giving up their first goal of the regular season, but got the equalizer in the second half to forge a 1-1 tie. Julianne Kummer got the assist on a goal by Rose. Keeper Hannah Hanko had some solid saves in net.