Upon arriving at Tokay High School, El Capitan players Metztli Enriquez and Madison Nolen went searching for the perfect rock.
It has become a pregame ritual late in the season.
It started when they found a rock at the bottom of the El Capitan pool and Enriquez decided to play with the small rock tucked under her swimsuit against Lodi on Oct. 27. The Gauchos won.
The duo found another rock at the bottom of the pool before their opening playoff game against Bear Creek last week. That time, they took turns playing with the rock tucked into their swim suits. The Gauchos won.
Fast forward to Wednesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal game and rematch with Lodi and the pregame rock hunt.
“We found a bunch of rocks, but I wanted to find the one that gave me the best vibes,” Enriquez said.
It took Enriquez and Nolen about five minutes to find the perfect rock. It took about the same amount of time for the Gauchos to open a 3-0 lead over the Flames in the first quarter as top-seeded El Capitan (22-7) clobbered Lodi 12-5.
The Gauchos and their rock advance to the Division II championship game at the Roseville Aquatics Complex. El Capitan will face No. 3 seed Del Oro at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Gauchos were in control throughout, scoring the first 10 goals. It was a much different contest than the 8-6 victory over the Flames two weeks ago.
“To be honest, we were more willing to put it out there,” said El Capitan coach Kristie Dunham, whose team will return to the section final for the second consecutive year. “We were just ready. I’ve got seniors champing at the bit to get out there. There was no doubt this is where they wanted to be, playing in a section semifinal with a chance to play for a section championship.”
The Gauchos could really do no wrong. After struggling for the bulk of this season in six-on-five situations, El Capitan cashed in on six of eight man-up advantages against Lodi.
Three of the Gauchos’ four first-quarter goals came after Lodi ejections with Marion Carpenter and Enriquez scoring on power plays. Hope Stokes added a goal on a penalty shot.
“We definitely took our time,” said Nolen, who turned in an outstanding performance with two goals, five assists and a steal. “We understood that we didn’t have to rush. We had great ball movement. I didn’t see the ball drop once.”
The Gauchos also shot lights out, making 12 of their 16 shots in the game. Their defense was suffocating, shutting out the Flames until midway through the third quarter.
Stokes finished with three goals and seven steals. Makenzie Wenham scored three goals. Carpenter had two goals. Goalie Toni Perez only had to stop five shots.
“We came out with four goals in the first quarter, and I don’t even know if Lodi got off a shot,” Dunham said. “We played outstanding team defense.”
The team posed for pictures after the game with Enriquez holding the rock.
“It’s more of a distraction for me and Madison,” Enriquez said. “We play around with it before the game. We pass it around during the game. It’s a game we play that keeps us from worrying about what the other team is doing.”
“That’s what you don’t know about this team. These girls are goofy,” Dunham said. “They actually play with the rock during the game. I have some funny girls.”
Nolen believes the rock they found in Lodi is now their lucky rock and will make the trip to Roseville on Saturday.
“The rock will come with us, but we’ll probably find another one before Saturday’s game,” Enriquez said.