By Ray Hamill — To say the St Bernard’s girls are eager to play Saturday’s North Coast Section championship game is a bit of an understatement.
If 15 years between title games wasn’t bad enough, the Crusaders have been forced to wait an additional two weeks, with the poor air quality in the Bay Area forcing multiple postponements.
And the players are definitely ready to go.
“They’re about ready to go off,” St. Bernard’s assistant coach Phil Rouse said. “About two-thirds of our girls are waiting to start basketball, and they’ve been feeling frustrated.”
The Titans, out of Rohnert Park, are 18-0-2 on the season and seeded No. 1 in the Division-III bracket.
The Crusaders are seeded No. 2 and come into the clash at 15-9-1, having played a far more difficult schedule in the Humboldt-Del Norte League.
And that’s something Rouse is hoping will play to his players’ advantage.
“I think our strength of schedule is going to help us,” he said.
The Crusaders are led by standout senior Jasa Sisemore, who has been a rock at the back all season and one of the team’s most dangerous playmakers when she moves forward.
Fellow seniors Ally Del Grande in midfield and Maddie Costa in goal have each also been instrumental in leading the team to a first NCS championship appearance since last winning the tournament in 2003.
As have Tiersa Grummert and Maya Waterman, who round out a five-player senior class playing their final games for the Crusaders.
Juniors Shelby Jordan, Marayah Tomlinson, Rachel Rodrigues and Mackenzie Finck each also have been instrumental in the team’s success this season, including a 5-1 win over Credo in the playoff semifinal three weeks ago.
Technology comfortably took care of St. Vincent de Paul by a score of 4-0 in the other semifinal, also played three weeks ago.
The Titans’ schedule, however, included a relatively easy run (12-0-1) in the North Central League-III, which features smaller schools and less competitive programs than the H-DNL.
And the Crusaders will go into the decider confident that will have them better prepared for the showdown.
“I would say we’re just going to play our game,” Rouse said.
Which includes pressing the Technology players.
“They’re a team that hasn’t been pressed, so I think we’ll go in with an agenda of trying to press as much as we can,” Rouse said. “Especially in the first 15 minutes, and try to get that first goal.”
The Crusaders, who also won the section crown in 1999, will be looking for their third NCS championship in the sport, which would leave them alone in third all-time among small schools within the NCS, trailing only powerhouses St. Vincent (eight) and Sonoma Academy (seven).
Game time is set for 1 p.m. at Rancho Cotate HS.