A grinning DVC women's soccer coach Cailin Mullins said it was a "long time in coming."
A long time indeed. Try more than 15 years.
When the Vikings won their showdown with Santa Rosa 2-1 on Tuesday in the teams' Big 8 Conference openers, it marked the first win of Mullins' coaching career over the Bear Cubs.
And what a win. It came against the defending conference champion in a battle of unbeatens, courtesy of goals by Megan Melara and Noelle Lemos. DVC assistant coach Alex Lobban had been talking to Mullins about how badly he wanted to beat Santa Rosa, but he's only been in the program for five years, she said.
"This is my 16th time, so it feels really good to get a result against them and to start off the Big 8 this way," Mullins said happily.
The resourceful Vikings (6-0, 1-0) staved off some late flurries by Santa Rosa (5-1, 0-1). Bear Cubs' scoring machine Amanda Galbraith halved the deficit to 2-1 in the 88th minute off a cross from Annika Cerini, but the Vikings saw out the game.
Santa Rosa entered the afternoon ranked No. 2 in the state in scoring with 29 goals in five games, but found the DVC midfield and back line tough to solve. Moreover, Vikings goalkeeper Katie McLaughlin was on her game with six saves. The dagger came in the 82nd minute. Lemos, a tall, powerful forward who started the season as a Vikings' assistant coach before discovering she had eligibility, won a battle in the middle of the box off a corner kick. She turned and hammered the ball into the net, making it 2-0. Early goals have been a forte of the Vikings, and this game was no different. Melara's fourth goal of the season, on a boot from the left, came in the second minute.
"I saw the goal and just shot it," Melara said. "I didn't think it was going in because she (the goalkeeper) got the touch, but then it did." The Vikings are enjoying perhaps the best start in program history. The players seem more calm on the ball and organized overall.
What makes the team special?
"Without a doubt, we have more talent," Mullins said. "We've got more intelligent players who are very good on the ball. They're strong personalities. They're determined. They are confident. They're just a real pleasure to coach." Melara, a freshman midfielder who played for North Coast Section power San Ramon Valley, said the key to the Vikings' success is the players' work rate.
"Everyone is always giving 110 percent, and we play as a team," Melara said. "We work for each other. We have the skill, so it's about our work rate." Lemos, who made her playing debut in a 2-0 win over Ohlone on Sept. 6, has been getting more fit and game ready, Mullins said.
"She's awesome," Melara said of her former assistant coach. "She's a great part of the team because she knows the game so well, and she's a great leader our there too." Freshman Chloe Lindemann did an effective job of marking Galbraith in the first half when Galbraith was in a withdrawn role, but it takes a village to stop the 2015 Big 8 scoring leader for 90 minutes. The Vikings center backs held her in relative check in the second half.
Galbraith, who interestingly enough didn't score against DVC last season, tapped one in late to make things interesting. "One person cannot mark her," Mullins said of Galbraith. "You have to work in at least twos with her, and we able to organize that and sort that out for the most part. I'm proud of them."