As the season progressed, so did the injuries. Sophomore Erin Simpson missed 1 1/2 months with a hamstring injury. Kaitlin Teoman was sidelined for a month with a knee injury and fellow sophomore Laura Wu was in and out of the lineup after suffering through a hip flexor, ankle injury and being hit in the eye with a ball.
On Wednesday, all three were back in the lineup for the Panthers during a 6-0 romp over No. 10 seed Pacific Collegiate in the opening round of the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs.
"We wanted to test them before Santa Cruz on Saturday," said Priory assistant Henry Arredondo.
The No. 7-seeded Panthers (13-5-2) will face No. 2 Santa Cruz (12-4-3) at Del Mar High in San Jose at noon.
"Santa Cruz is going to be a little bit different of a game," added Arredondo. "It'll probably be more fast-paced. It was 6-0 today. Saturday, it could be a one-goal game."
Santa Cruz won the Division III title in 2010 and is a team that Priory knows little about at this point. The Panthers, however, probably have been hard to scout, as well, given their injury situation.
Head coach Ramiro Arredondo feels pretty good about his team's chances on Saturday, especially with the addition of three players. At one point this season, Priory had only 12 available players. In another match, five starters were sidelined.
"The character of this team is good," Ramiro Arredondo said. "We have kids who can step up in different positions.
Priory has six seniors who lead the way. On Wednesday, Darrah Shields scored three first-half goals and fellow senior Eugenia Jernick added another.
Shields got things rolling with 25:27 left in the first half with a penalty kick. With 18:48 remaining, Shields left-footed a rocket from outside the penalty box for a 2-0 lead. Jernick made it 3-0 after beating the keeper on a 1v1 with 16:05 left and Shields made it 4-0 in stoppage time with another long-range goal.
Ramiro Arredondo challenged players to attack more offensively and they evidently responded.
Priory's offensive fireworks in the first half didn't carry over into the second half despite controlling the ball much of the time. With 9:50 left, freshman Siobhan Gillis made it 5-0 when she launched a long shot from the left side that bounced up and hit the crossbar, then angling back down into the corner of the net. In stoppage time, junior Anna Gillis matched her sister by tapping in a loose ball in front of the goal.
Priory was one of four local girls teams playing in opening-round matches on Wednesday and all four produced victories.
In Soquel, No. 12-seeded Castilleja knocked off No. 5 seed Soquel, 3-1, in another Division III opener. The Gators (7-10-2) advanced to Saturday's quarterfinals against No. 4 Menlo School (13-4-2) at St. Francis High at 10 a.m. The Knights beat Castilleja twice during the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) season.
Castilleja, making its first CCS appearance since 2007, took the lead in the 18th minute when Kaley Nelson's free kick was headed into the net by Victoria Pu. Early in the second half, the Knights (11-5-5) evened the score on a 1v1 that was deftly placed out of goalie Nina Jansen's reach, but the Gators answered when Emily Mosbacher collected a Katherine Hobbs' deflected pass and sent it low left for a 2-1 lead. The final Gators' goal was a free kick by Nelson from 38 yards in the 77th minute.
"The game ebbed and flowed," said Gators' coach Ross Ireland. "Just as momentum switched after the Soquel goal, a Casti counter attack led to a stunning 1v3 finish by Mosbacher. I am very proud of this squad."
In Santa Cruz, Sacred Heart Prep advanced to the quarterfinals of the Division III playoffs with a 2-0 victory over host Harbor. The No. 11-seeded Gators improved to 11-5-5 while No. 6 Harbor ended its season 9-6-4.
Sacred Heart Prep got the eventual winning goal in the 22nd minute from junior Kendall Jager. In the 33rd minute, senior Stephanie Terpening scored off an assist from Jager. The Gators will play No. 3 R.L. Stevenson (16-1-3) on Saturday at Gilroy High at noon.
In Watsonville, No. 9 seed Menlo-Atherton (12-5-4) scored all of its goals in the first half on the way to a 3-1 victory over No. 8 Watsonville (12-7-2). Meryssa Thompson scored twice and fellow senior Jen Kirst added one as the Bears advanced to face No. 1 seed Los Gatos (16-1-2) on Saturday at Del Mar High at 10 a.m.
Thompson's goals both came on redirections off crosses by Lindsay Keare and Olivia DelRosso. Kirst's goal was set up by sophomore center midfielder Zoe Pacalin, who only recently returned from the U.S. Soccer U-15 National Team training camp in Sunrise, Fla.
While Palo Alto was disappointed with a fourth-place finish at the recent SCVAL Championships, the Vikings would be happy with a similar finish at the CCS Championships this weekend at Independence High in San Jose.
Action begins Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m., with the championship finals beginning Saturday at 7 p.m.
"We are looking to finish in the top four," said Paly coach Dave Duran. "That has been our goal from Day 1. Everyone is chasing Gilroy — nine CCS titles in a row and a heavy favorite again."
Palo Alto returns all its medalists from last season — Joey Christopherson (126), Nick Ortiz (132), Ryan Oshima (143) and Kalen Gans (160). Gans and Ortiz both are No. 2 seeds while Oshima is a No. 5. Christopherson is unseeded.
"We have nine qualifiers going in, and we are hoping to get two alternates in, as well," said Duran. "All our qualifiers are expected to score points for us. We only have nine in for sure; we can get the job done with the nine we have."
The alternates will be decided on Friday morning.
St. Francis and Palma will be chasing Gilroy for the team title while Palo Alto will be happy to be in the hunt. The Lancers and Chieftans have a few more qualifiers than the Vikings, but Duran believes he has a number of other potential scorers in Erik Anderson (170), Andrew Frick (195) and Trent Marshall.
"All have the ability to qualify to the state meet," Duran said.
The top three finishers from the CCS finals will advance to the state meet in Bakersfield the following weekend.
Gunn, which captured the team title at the SCVAL Championships, will be looking only to qualify individuals to the state meet after being hit by injuries and illness.
"Two of my big guns (seniors Julian Calderon and JJ Strnad) are injured and will probably not wrestle," said coach Chris Horpel. "They would have scored a lot of team points for us. Hopefully, others will step up and be competitive."
But, Horpel noted, "The rest of my team is either still sick or recovering from some bug."
Menlo-Atherton will be looking to get its two seeded wrestlers — Andre Delagnes (No. 2 at 120) and Dino Andrighetto (No. 6 at 126) to the state meet after qualifying four out of the PAL Championships last weekend at Half Moon Bay.
The Bears finished second in the team race, trailing only Half Moon Bay. Delagnes won his second straight league title with two technical falls and a pin in the finals. He was also named the tournament's outstanding wrestler at the lighter weights.
Anthony Andrighetto (106) and his brother Dino (126) both finished second in their respective weight classes. It was Anthony's second straight season as a runner-up. Dino, meanwhile, earned his first trip to CCS.
Sophomore Josh Middel finished third at 170 and also advanced to CCS for the Bears while earning his first trip. Three teammates finished fourth and earned alternate status for CCS — Austin Wilson at 113, Charles Washington at 138 and Josh Buttram at 182.
Meanwhile, Kendra Wiley won the 126-pound division at the PAL Girls' Championships and was named the outstanding wrestler in the lighter weights. She'll compete in the girls' state tournament this weekend in Lemoore, along with Gunn's Cadence Lee.