They walked off the field on Feb. 17 with a taste of of the postseason, understanding that they had a chance to put together something memorable in 2015-16 with a squad that wasn’t losing a single player to graduation.
The girls’ soccer team at Rancho Mirage High School stepped onto the field again for the first time since early this year, and left Indio High with a 2-1 victory, having caught a rather quick glimpse into that grand vision of what could be.
During the first year of Rancho Mirage program, a year ago, the Rattlers started a team with mostly freshmen and sophomore’s, and surprised some by finishing fourth in a seven-team league against mostly older competition. The 10-win season resulted in a playoff berth, and just one player from that squad opted not to return this season.
“These girls didn’t really listen to outside expectations,” head coach Garrett Estrin said Monday. “They placed those expectations for this year on themselves, and want to surprise people. We’re still a young team, but the experience of last year just added to their confidence.”
Estrin, who also coaches the girls’ team at College of the Desert, wasn’t sure what to expect Monday. He benched a pair of starters for not conditioning over the holiday break, and switched up his formation as a result, which nearly backfired early.
Indio took an early lead just three minutes into the game on a goal by Jessica Acosta from just in front of the Rattlers goalkeeper Jasmin Sterling, which changed the Rattlers’ gameplan. Estrin went back to his original formation and Rancho Mirage forward Jaidah Martin finally found the back of the net in the 23rd minute.
Rancho Mirage was last year’s leading scorer and all-CIF performer Kenya Cordero, who sat with a minor injury. But with the team the Rattlers have, players and coaches are expecting the team to continue chugging along this season, regardless of who takes the field.
“We really just came out flat and I think it was a combination of things,” Sterling said. “We’re still working to get on the same page, and I think we showed that early in the game.”
Nayeli Peguero sealed the win with a goal on a pass from Fernanda Mercado on a corner kick from Melina Flores in the 49th minute. It was a sign of relief for a team that has yet to prove much, but has the talent, experience and depth to be a serious contender for the De Anza League title in 2016.
“I feel like we’re strong, mentally,” said sophomore forward Fernanda Mercado. “And I think we have better team chemistry, we have more of a bond. Our expectations are high this year.”
Mercado and her squad have a chance to build on Tuesday’s win at their home opener Thursday against Xavier Prep. Indio (0-2) will enter tournament play Thursday and continue through the weekend.
“They’ve set the bar high this year,” Estrin said of his players. “If we can keep meeting the challenges, time will tell what we can do.”