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After all of that, it’s Montgomery No. 1 and Maria Carrillo No. 2. Again.

Moving the girls’ North Bay and Sonoma County leagues soccer seasons from fall to winter was supposed to expand the pool of competition, make the postseason more meaningful and help push soccer ahead on a state championship course.

All of that happened. But what also happened is these two ultra-familiar foes have once again positioned themselves on a collision course in the North Coast Section tournament.

The NCS brackets were announced Sunday and North Bay League champ Montgomery (17-1-1 overall, 13-0-1 in league) got the top seed in Division 2 while longtime crosstown rival Maria Carrillo (15-2-1 overall, 12-1-1 in league) received the No. 2 spot.

“It’s brilliant,” said Maria Carrillo coach Debra LaPrath. “I think it’s so awesome. It shows the strength of our league.”

It means that if both teams survive the early rounds, they will meet in the final on Feb. 24. It would mark the third time this season the two teams meet, the Vikings taking the first game easily at 5-1 on Dec. 16 and the squads playing to a double overtime 2-2 tie on Jan. 24.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. If Montgomery gets past No. 16 Richmond on Wednesday, they will face the winner of the No. 8 Newark Memorial vs. No. 9 Bishop O’Dowd game just to make it to the semifinals on Feb. 21.

For the Pumas, they will have to dispatch No. 15 Alameda in order to take on the winner of No. 7 Northgate vs. No. 10 Ukiah to reach the semis.

Montgomery coach Pat McDonald said the selection committee likely honored both the strength of the North Bay League and the Vikings’ and Pumas’ strength of schedule outside of NBL games.

“We both weren’t afraid to go outside our comfort zone and play people,” he said. “I have always heard the NCS likes teams to go outside their area.”

Montgomery opened their season taking on Davis High in Davis. They fell 4-0 marking their only loss of the season. But the Vikings later beat Redwood, the sixth seed in Division 2, 3-1 and Napa 7-0. During the winter break, the Vikings traveled to play Acalanes in Lafayette, where they beat the Dons 8-2, and two days later hosted San Marin of Novato and won 8-0.

Carrillo played Livermore on the road Dec. 9 and lost 2-0, but it was a game in which LaPrath said the Pumas played some of their best early soccer. And despite that loss, the NCS selection committee was impressed enough by what Carrillo did the rest of the season to give the Pumas the No. 2 seed while dropping Livermore to No. 5.

But that all points to the anything can happen in 80 minutes reality of these games. And in the playoffs, the unexpected is expected.

Which is why neither coach is studying game film of their two early season meetings. Yet.

“It’d be fun if it happens,” McDonald said. “We’d sure get a big crowd at the game, that’s for sure. But if we start worrying about Carrillo now we’re in trouble.”

To that end, McDonald said he’s having his kids focus on Wednesday and prepping for a relatively unknown Richmond squad and focusing on what the Vikings need to do.

“We’ve had a good year,” he said. “We’re not going to go alter a bunch of stuff.”

Maria Carrillo, still playing on the road while its field is being upgraded, will host No. 15 Alameda High Wednesday night at Santa Rosa High.

LaPrath said she was surprised that the Division 2 bracket was 16 teams strong and had her fingers crossed for a bye Wednesday.

“At the end of the season, kids’ bodies are a little beat up,” she said.

That said, she likes how the Pumas are playing.

“I think we have found that rhythm,” she said.

While the whole division is rife with the unknown, there are some danger spots that North Bay teams are well aware of.

“Casa and Ukiah, if they show up, they are good teams,” LaPrath said. “They both have the ability to do damage.”

Ukiah, the No. 10 seed, finished 7-7 in league as did Casa Grande, which was awarded the No. 11 seed. Both are on the Carrillo side of the bracket.

And as much fun as the bigger tournament looks to be and as cool as it is to play new teams from new places, old rivalries die hard. And we all may find ourselves rooting not for the new, but for the familiar because it’s been so much fun so far.

“I hope to see Montgomery at the end,” LaPrath said. “That’s the goal.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 and at Kerry.benefield @pressemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and Instagram @kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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