ROHNERT PARK — Sometimes timing is everything.
The Maria Carrillo Pumas lost to the Livermore Cowboys 2-0 on Dec. 9. It was their first loss of the season and almost from the final whistle, Pumas coach Debra LaPrath wanted it back.
Saturday night, she got it. And the result was entirely different.
The No. 2-seeded Pumas beat No. 5 seed Livermore 1-0 to claim the North Coast Section Division 2 championship at Rancho Cotate High in Rohnert Park.
The title, in this first season after all North Bay and Sonoma County league teams moved to winter, is the Pumas’ eighth in school history, including a run of five in a row from 2011-15 when area girls played in the fall and the Pumas were in Division 1.
“It means so much,” LaPrath said. “You don’t want to look back at last year, but we had that early exit and these guys, (they) felt like they fell short.”
The Pumas were dispatched from the postseason last year in a quarterfinal loss to Windsor. Apparently, it’s stung ever since.
“It feels so good to win,” senior Megan Sullivan said. “It was redemption for us.”
The win was the only thing feeling good for Sullivan, who was racked with an illness and still managed to play 80 minutes of phenomenal soccer Saturday night.
Sullivan was tasked with marking Livermore’s senior striker, Lexi Romero, a lightning-fast and incredibly dangerous player. Sullivan gave her nothing.
Romero “is deadly,” LaPrath said. “Megan knew that mark was her job tonight.”
“We knew we had to shut her down,” Sullivan said. “I knew I couldn’t let her have the ball, so fighting for every single 50-50 was one of my goals for this game. Putting it all out there and getting stuck in. I knew I couldn’t let her score. I’m so happy we got a shutout.”
The only goal of the game came five minutes into the second half when junior Teagan Coleman sent a driving cross from the left corner on the ground at the near post.
Senior Kitana Gonzalez timed her run perfectly to beat her defender and just get a piece of it to put it in the back of the net near post.
It wasn’t the finish — it was the run that was a thing of beauty.
“I knew I had to run near post because I knew she was going to get it right there,” Gonzalez said. “It was a hard cross and I just had to touch it.”
Gonzalez, who has 27 goals on the season, said she felt compelled to make up for a missed opportunity just prior to the goal. But it was Gonzalez who put pressure on the Cowboys’ back line all night.
She had a prime chance to score late in the first half when sophomore Brynn Howard was taken down near the top of the box and the ball popped to Gonzalez’s feet. but she could not get enough on her left-footed shot to get it past Livermore’s senior goalkeeper, Jennifer Kovisto.
The Pumas had their chances, but the Cowboys certainly did not lie down.
Livermore junior Kamryn Farro was dangerous all night. Her throw-ins were weapons in and of themselves — so long that they looked like free kicks whenever she took them.