The San Mateo girls’ soccer team has reached the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs each of the past two seasons and now is looking to do something never before done in school history.
It is the third time in school history San Mateo has reached consecutive CCS playoffs, but the team has never made three straight postseason appearances.
“It’s great that we have the opportunity,” San Mateo coach Daire O’Connor said. “If we do qualify, we will be mentally prepared to take it on.”
The Bearcats were eliminated in the first round of the CCS playoffs last season following their first season in the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division in which they finished second behind Aragon (14-4-5 last season).
“We caught a lot of teams off guard in the first half of last year,” O’Connor said. “When the second round came, they were up for us.”
San Mateo (11-5-2 last season) was one of five teams from the Bay to reach the CCS playoffs, making its accomplishment all the more impressive.
San Mateo loses All-league first-teamer Katelyn Turtlebaub from a team with a slew of young and inexperienced players.
“We’ve had a good team for the last couple of years and it was a younger team, and it’s been growing,” San Mateo assistant coach Orhan Muratoglu said.
Turtlebaub graduated after a stellar season, scoring 18 goals and chipping in six assists in 17 games.
“We still have a lot of good players with a lot of creativity,” O’Connor said. “We’re looking for two to three players to take that burden.”
Now San Mateo brings back a senior-heavy team with a wealth of experience, many with two years of playoff action under their belts.
The Bearcats return six All-PAL players, including first-teamers Shannon Wischek and Danielle Coyle and second-teamers Karyn Jacobs and Jennifer Ticson. San Mateo also brings back senior captain Dayna Sakata.
The challenge, O’Connor said, will be finding ways to manufacture goals.
Two-time defending Bay champion Aragon, which was the top seed in the CCS Division II playoffs last season, is the only team that returns more all-league representatives than San Mateo.
It is the first time since 1997-98 that San Mateo has made consecutive playoff appearances and not since 1995 have the Bearcats advanced.
San Mateo won the Ocean and had an undefeated preseason and regular season in 2009-10 before losing in the first round of the CCS playoffs, finishing the season 16-1-2.
For San Mateo to win the league, it will have a tough stretch in its last three games with Aragon, 2011 CCS team Burlingame and Terra Nova.