Foothill Edges Santa Margarita As Hoffman, Nailon Steal the Show

Foothill and Santa Margarita hosted a goalie clinic Tuesday night, and a great lacrosse game broke out. While each team showed off powerhouse defense, bear-trap rides, and highlight reel scoring, the heroes of the contest were Knight senior Becca Nailon and Eagle senior Victoria Hoffman. Each goalie owned the most important 36 square feet on her team’s end of the field.

More to the point: In a one-goal nail-biter, over the course of the final 14:58 of the game, there were only two goals. During this same period, the goalies combined for no fewer than five huge saves.

What ended as an epic defensive battle began as a boat race. After five minutes, the score was 4-1, with Foothill in firm control. The home team struck first, as Foothill junior Brooke Williams scored off an unsettled drive 24 seconds in. Sophomore Ashley Stokes followed with a free position. Although Santa Margarita senior Sidney Ruiz answered off a transition feed from junior Katelyn Murphy, Williams came back to book a hat trick by scoring two more—one off a nifty feed from senior Madi Macdonald.

The pace of the game slowed considerably, as both teams followed with three-minute offensive sets, each of which showcased strong team defense punctuated by a great saves from Nailon and Hoffman. Eagle senior Maddie Bush ended the short stalemate with a goal from a textbook draw and dump from Ruiz. After a Santa Margarita gained the following draw but turned the ball over on a shot without backup, Foothill transitioned and settled. In the ensuing sequence, the Foothill attack earned two consecutive close shot opportunities and twice Hoffman was up to the task.

On the second save, she controlled and cleared to Murphy, who settled the offense and a few moments later drove hard from the wing, made a nice up-and-under dodge, and finished with a smooth shot.

Just like that, with 8:55 left in the first, it was a one-goal game. 4-3, Foothill.

The teams exchanged defensive stands capped by the obligatory outrageous save. With 4:18 remaining, Santa Margarita’s Murphy drove twice, the first time shooting a creative backhand that went just wide, and the second time attacking the cage from behind and threading a shot on the near-post hip.

In the final minutes of the half Murphy made a brilliant check for the turnover, and Foothill junior Ava Brand made a nice knockdown to save Nailon from a fast break shot. Santa Margarita ended up with the ball and killed a minute to play for the final shot. With about twenty seconds to go, Murphy began a drive that would last eleven seconds, face a double team on the crease, cut around to the other side of the cage from behind, and finish with an off-balance, sidearm-to-off-stick-high shot, only to end upside-down on the ground with a one-goal lead going into halftime.

Halftime: 5-4, Santa Margarita

Foothill came out of the break as if its hornet’s nest had been poked. The first four of the second half were theirs. Nailon contributed three monster saves during the stretch—the first of which pin-balled from the sidewall of her stick and hit each ankle, before she controlled the ball and chucked it forty-plus yards to a streaking Brand at midfield, who transitioned and fed Macdonald for the transition score. During the run, Brand also scored two and assisted one to senior Lauren Kilger.

And just when everyone might have expected (or feared) the Knight steamroller, the Eagles showed signs of life. Ruiz earned a free position, pounded the it off the crossbar and nearly straight down, then picked up the rebound, rolled the crease on the unsettled play, and shot high stick side against the grain. Bush bookended scoring for the Eagles with the final goal of the game six minutes later, and 9:03 remaining.

And it was in these final seventeen minutes of only two goals that each team’s relentless defense took over the game. Hoffman kept her team in the game by reading the juicy off-stick shots as if she could see the future. Just before the four-minute mark, she made one of these signature saves (her eighth stop of the evening) to keep her team in the game. But Santa Margarita ended up offside on the clear and the ball went back to the Knights. With possession and under four minutes to go in the game, Foothill went into the stall. After three excruciating minutes, just when it seemed the home team would kill the clock, the ball went down with 43 seconds to go.

Santa Margarita scooped the groundball, took about fifteen seconds to make it through the swarming Foothill ride, fired a shot that went wide, backed up, and put the ball in Ruiz’s stick. She drove, was repelled by a double, re-attacked, and took the foul with 5.2 seconds to go. She made a patient, nimble drive through a collapsing defense, changed levels twice to get the lay in, but Foothill’s Nailon stood tall and stuffed the dunk for her ninth save of the game.

Horn. Whistle. Handshake. Foothill wins, 8-7.

From the fan side, no one could have asked for anything more.