WATSONVILLE — Lightning strikes could be seen throughout Watsonville late Wednesday night.
Lightning almost struck in the closing minutes of Wednesday night’s Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress division showdown between St. Francis and Pajaro Valley.
The Grizzlies nearly forced a tie in the closing minutes of the teams' contest at Emmett M. Geiser Field, but the Sharks’ defense held tough through a pressure-packed flurry over the final five minutes for a 2-1 win, their fourth straight victory.
With the win, St. Francis improved to 5-2-1 overall and 4-2 in PCAL-Cypress action, improving on its single-season record for most league wins in program history just six games into the season.
“Our team is very special,” said St. Francis freshman midfielder Makenna Bedolla. “We’re definitely growing and I’m very proud of us. We have a great future ahead of us.”
Bedolla stepped in for injured sophomore striker Devlyn Gomez, and excelled at the tip of the offensive spear by scoring both of the Sharks’ goals.
She converted a one-on-one opportunity 17 minutes in, and made it 2-0 13 minutes later on a free kick from mere feet away following a Pajaro Valley back-pass.
But the Grizzlies did not shrink after the intermission.
Sophomore striker Jasmin Castillo would not let them.
She danced around St. Francis defenders time and again, and produced a handful of scoring opportunities over the final 40 minutes.
But only one, a penalty kick during the 68th minute, showed up on the scoreboard.
The rest only drew “oohs” and “ahhs” from the fans scattered across the wooden stands at Watsonville High who braved the scattered showers to see the two city schools compete.
“I haven’t played like this in a while,” said Castillo, who now has 11 goals on the season. “My head hasn’t really been in the game like it was today. I’ve been trying to build up my confidence, and I’ve been taking more shots and trying to lead my team more…I feel like I played better than I have throughout the season.”
Pajaro Valley, at the bottom of the PCAL-Cypress with a 0-4-1 record, might need even more from last year’s Monterey Bay League Pacific division Newcomer of the Year over the next few weeks as it tries to break a 25-game losing streak against league opponents before the end of the season.
Castillo is hoping Wednesday’s effort will be the key to helping the team snap out of its funk.
Pajaro Valley hosts Soledad back at Geiser Field on Friday.
“This was a really great game,” Castillo said. “The girls got their confidence up, and it made me really happy.”
The Sharks’ confidence, too, was sky-high as they climbed into second place in the PCAL-Cypress heading into the second round of league play.
That confidence bodes well for St. Francis, which will have a chance to right the wrongs of their first round of league play next week. The Sharks host Seaside on Jan. 23 and travel across town to play league-leading Monte Vista Christian two days later.
They lost to both teams to start the PCAL-Cypress season 0-2, but bounced back with the longest league winning streak in program history.
“[This streak] shows how we can get to the top,” Bedolla said. “We have to keep pushing each other.”