Palo Alto sophomore Lexi Gwyn was on a mission the day she stepped onto campus as a freshman. The school did not sponsor a field hockey team and to the Australian import, that could not stand.
Tuesday afternoon it all came to fruition and Gwyn was at the center of it all, scoring a goal with just under four minutes to play to give the Vikings a 1-0 victory over visiting Monta Vista in a SCVAL El Camino Division match.
The day could not have played out any better.
"Honestly I didn't know what to expect," Paly coach Jenny Crane said. "They were all nervous and I was nervous. But I felt the energy and told them if they gave 100 percent it was a win no matter what happened on the field. Our goal is to grow together and learn together and to establish the program."
Gwyn, who scored off a penalty corner set in motion by Jessie Arons, is a great place to start. Until she started a petition to gauge interest in the sport last year, no one except her had much, if any, field hockey experience.
Gwyn began playing six years ago, while her family was still in Australia.
"It's a much bigger sport there," said Gwyn, who connected with the San Jose Fly field hockey club when she arrived in the States roughly three years ago.
She found herself on a team dotted with players from Mitty, St. Francis and Los Gatos, all top Central Coast Section teams. One of those teams has either shared or won the title outright the past 20 years.
Working in conjunction with the athletic department, Gwyn started researching all the steps it would take.
"I knew it was possible," she said."We researched the league, the other teams in the area, got the coaches and we all worked so hard. We were all so eager to get out there and get ready to play. Seeing the lines on the field, I thought 'this is happening.' "
The Vikings, who host Homestead in a SCVAL match at 4 p.m. Thursday, took a while to get revved up, relying on passion and energy to move the ball up and down the field.
In the second half, a game plan began to emerge, in which Paly earned three penalty corners, the third resulting in the only goal of the contest.
"We came out and you could see how improved we were since the start of the season," Gwyn said. "To score feels so amazing. All we wanted to do to just keep getting better and if we win, it's a bonus."
In addition to Gwyn and Arons, goalie Maria Silva made a handful of key saves and Natalie Hmelar, Emma Siskens and Rachael VonderHaar were active. Hallie Faust made a big field block with 2:08 remaining to play that foiled one of the Matadors' best scoring chances.
"I want them to celebrate this win and feel the excitement," said Crane, who played at Los Gatos, St. Francis and then at California. "We are constantly refining our skills."