Aaliyah Carter has a few color preferences in mind; neon pink or purple. Teammate Jaidah Martin likes more of a rainbow of colors. Other players have their own first choice.
None of them know, for sure, though, what color they will dye their head coach’s head. But the girls’ soccer team at Rancho Mirage High School knows it will happen this weekend, after their milestone victory Thursday.
With a 3-2 home victory over Rancho Alamitos in the CIF Southern Section playoffs, the Rattlers won their first postseason game in program history. Their coach offered a little incentive to seal the deal this week.
Garrett Estrin told his squad before the season that if they went unbeaten in the De Anza League that he would let them dye his hair any color they wanted. The deal fell apart when the Rattlers lost to Coachella Valley High the final week of the regular season.
This week, Estrin put the deal back on the table. He told the girls they could color his hair if they win a CIF playoff game, which the team had not done in two previous tries since the school opened in 2013.
“I made the deal,” Estrin said, “and they seemed pretty excited about it.”
The agreement was once again in jeopardy when the Rattlers fell behind early Thursday against a team they were expected to beat.
In the 32nd minute, though, Rancho Mirage (16-7-2, 9-1 De Anza) tied the score when Fernanda Mercado found teammate Salma Delgado open in front of the goal. Delgado fired the ball past a defender and the Rancho Alamitos goalie to relieve some of the pressure.
“It was a little hard because we’ve only been scored on twice this (league) season,” Martin said, “but we really pulled together as a team. After the first goal, we got it together.”
The Rattlers went into the intermission with the score tied, but Jaidah Martin scored less than a minute into the second half on a one-on-one breakaway against the Rancho Alamitos goalie. She was set up by a long pass through the air from teammate Kenya Cordero.
The Rattlers took control of the possession throughout the rest of the game, before Estrin began emptying his bench.
But it wasn’t over quite yet. Rancho Alamitos found the back of the net again on a goal from Felicia Hyde, and the Rattlers had to hang on to the lead during the final moments to secure the win.
“The pressure was extremely intense,” Carter said. “I was scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’m just glad our offense got it together and our defense, we stayed with it.”
Afterward, players began asking each other, and Estrin, what color he’d be wearing prior to Tuesday’s game against Ganesha High from Pomona.
One player suggested white. Others scoffed, saying that was letting their coach off easy.
Estrin doubled down, saying players could indeed color his hair, but that they could also shave his head if they win a second playoff game.
“I figured I’d want to shave my head anyway,” Estrin said with a chuckle.
If the Rattlers don’t win again this season, Estrin said he’ll shave his head himself.
Players say they refuse to let that happen.
“This is what we’ve been wanting,” Carter said. “We’ve been wanting to get past the first round.
“But we’re not done yet, we’ve still got that second game, so we’re going to keep pushing forward.”