Maria Dela Cruz wanted to send retiring Granite Bay girls soccer coach Chris Roberts out with a match to remember Saturday.
So the senior goalie made several marvelous saves, including a game-decider late, to help Granite Bay (15-4-2) preserve a 1-0 win over Sierra Foothill League rival Rocklin (17-4-2) in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game at Cosumnes Oaks High School.
"What more can I say about Maria Dela Cruz," said Roberts, who will become an assistant principal at a Grass Valley middle school next fall. "She had a great save in PKs on Thursday to beat Bella Vista. She was the one that pretty much sent us through to today, and she's the one that held on for us at the end.
"Man, I thought that ball was going in."
Roberts was talking about a second-half shot attempt by Rocklin's Shannon Garvella, a 30-yard kunckling floater that Dela Cruz knocked down only to see it curl toward the left corner of goal. She made a desperation dive and flicked the ball away with her left arm before it crossed over the goal line.
"The whole game, the whole season flashed before me," Dela Cruz said. "I could see my teammates' faces. 'I have to do this for them.'...It was a miracle."
Rocklin had beaten and tied Granite Bay in winning the SFL title.
But Morgan Geiger's goal off a free kick from Kayla Karlsson 19 minutes into the match, helped boost the Grizzlies' confidence.
"This is the first time that we scored first against Rocklin this season," Roberts said. "It was nice to have them have to chase us for once."
It was a chase that was futile for the Thunder, who lost for the fifth time in nine years in the D-II final.
Roberts said winning the section title, Granite Bay's second in girls soccer and first since 2002, was a testament to his players' fortitude. The Grizzlies needed a late-season push even to make the postseason.
"I can't imagine going out with a better group of girls," said Roberts, who has coached eight seasons. "We had a great meeting yesterday and shared some emotional stuff. And they really drove it home today. I could tell they wanted it."
- Bil Paterson