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Branson GVS Brings Home the NCS Crown
瑞安·斯蒂尔

The much-anticipated North Coast Section Division III final between top-seeded Branson 和 second-seeded Acalanes (Lafayette) began with a flurry. In the first minute, Bulls goaltender 帕特丽夏DePalma kept the ball out of the net on a scramble even as most of her body crossed the line. Just two minutes later, Branson failed to find the net from point-blank range.

In only the fourth minute, a header by Branson forward 安娜·拉德纳 hung in the air at the goal line 和 teammate 赖利·皮尔森 chested it just over the line, giving Branson an early 1-0 lead.

It seemed unlikely that a single goal would hold up against a formidable Acalanes offense led by Georgetown-bound senior forward Natalie Means 和 an experienced, senior-dominated Dons team. Means entered the game having scored 32 of the Don’s 90 goals on the season. She 和 her teammates led a relentless attack that racked up twenty shots to just four for Branson, with Means accounting for a dozen of those on her own.  

But thanks to a defense that started from a forward line which regularly dropped back into space 和 forced the potent Acalanes attack to navigate multiple layers of resistance, Branson was able to deny Acalanes for seventy-five minutes. 游戏的结束, forcing positive throw-ins 和 playing the ball deep to the corners for relief was as important for the Bulls as retaining possession. Earlier in the season, Branson had weathered a similar Redwood barr年龄 in their away matchup but surrendered a goal in the final seconds. This time, the Bulls prevailed.

DePalma’s goalkeeping effort made the critical difference for Branson. She played error-free throughout, giving up no second chances, 和 made at least two remarkable saves in the closing minutes, one on a shot that ricocheted off her face 和 another that she somehow man年龄d to tip off the bar back to herself while twisting in midair. The team’s clean sheet was DePalma’s seventeenth shutout of the season.

The stalwart Branson defense, led by seniors 艾玛·艾伦莉娜Sugrue, continued their exceptional play just as it was most needed. Nine Bulls players played a full eighty minutes under constant pressure.

与赢, Branson notched its first NCS girl’s soccer title since 2017-18 和 reversed the result of an epic 2020 NCS Final loss to Acalanes, a match which went to 14 rounds of penalty kicks in the last meeting between these teams. Both teams await their placement 和 seedings for this week’s upcoming NorCal playoffs, which mark the season finale. 

Photography: Devon Johnson