By Phil Dailey
It was the most successful campaign in the short five years of the program, but Tuesday afternoon saw the end of the season for the La Jolla High field hockey team.
The Vikings (14-8-1 overall) had more wins this season than any other and the result was the No. 3 seed in the Division II CIF playoffs, which also came with a first-round bye.
On Tuesday, LJHS welcomed a familiar foe, Valley Center, for a quarterfinal game, a team it had already beat this season, 2-1.
But as many players and coaches know, the playoffs always are different that the regular season.
"We came out in the first half kind of shell-shocked and we couldn't execute the fundamentals," La Jolla head coach Paula Conway said. "We were really just in kind of a daze. They got a couple early goals; it was 2-1, then 3-1.
"They were a lot more aggressive and we were a lot more tentative."
The team trailed 3-1 at the break, but started the second half with many chances to get back into the game. However, Valley Center (19-5-1) took advantage of its few opportunities and knocked in a goal to give the Jaguars a 4-1 lead.
Shortly after Valley Center took a three-goal lead, Rachel Hamilton made it 4-2, but they team was unable to get any closer in the final 10 minutes.
"We kind of got deflated, but we started to fight back a little bit and got another goal, but we just couldn't get two more in there. It was just too big of a hole," Conway said.
Conway thought the slow start had a lot to do with the team's lack of playoff experience.
"We don't have a lot of CIF experience," Conway said. "Valley Center has been around a lot longer than we have and they have a winning tradition. We haven't got to that point yet."
Overall, Conway was happy with the way the season went and looks for more success next season with several returning players.
"Three years ago when I was begging people to play ... we've come a long way," she said. "I'm really proud of them."