Scotts Valley High junior Skylar Dufour was named team co-captain and helped lead the Falcons girls' lacrosse team into the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs, which begins May 11. (Juan Reyes/Press Banner)

The Scotts Valley High girls’ lacrosse team had just eight players available to suit up for last week’s Central Coast Section play-in game against Monterey High. 

It was a tall task for Falcons co-captain Sofia Niklaus and her teammates, but it wasn’t anything they couldn’t handle.

Niklaus had 11 goals, a pair of assists, 15 draw possessions and four draw controls in a 14-5 victory over the Monterey Toreadores on May 4.

With the win, Scotts Valley earned the No. 3 seed in the Division II playoffs and will host No. 6 Burlingame on May 11 at 11am. The Panthers (8-7, 5-5) placed fifth in the West Bay Athletic League Skyline Division. 

Niklaus said at this point it all comes down to precise communication and playing well together on the pitch.

“Because if we don’t play together, we’re really not gonna make it that far,” she said. 

Niklaus mentioned it’s a different vibe than last year’s postseason run. The Falcons return to the CCS playoffs after losing a heartbreaker to Sacred Heart Prep in the semifinals in 2023.

Niklaus knew from the beginning that if they tried playing with the same mentality as last season, they were probably going to be a bit disappointed.

“I think just going in with a positive mindset,” she said. “And if we lose in the first round at CCS, it doesn’t matter. I think we did a really good job.”

The Falcons star midfielder put on quite the performance last week by racking up 20 goals and nine assists in three games.

It started with six goals and four assists in a 12-1 blowout win against Carmel High in Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division action May 2.

Niklaus followed up the next day with three goals and three assists in a 7-5 victory over Monte Vista Christian to close out the regular season.

Scotts Valley (11-2, 8-2) was runner-up in the Gabilan Division behind champion Stevenson School, which finished with a perfect 10-0 record in league play.

Scotts Valley head coach Colleen Niklaus said this season has been difficult only because they do tend to miss several players for practice.

“We don’t have a huge squad. It’s rare that we have everybody, so that’s challenging,” she said. “But if you have that core group, which we do, it’s OK.”

Also leading the way for the Falcons is co-captain Skylar Dufour, who had two goals, three assists, one draw possession and 13 draw controls against Monterey. The junior midfielder also had one goal and one assist in Scotts Valley’s crushing win over Carmel.

“I think a lot of it is practice and we’re just learning to work together more as a team, and get everyone involved,” Dufour said. 

Sofia Niklaus and Dufour are the most experienced players on the roster after nine players departed, including former standouts Siena Wong and Ellie Raffo (graduated) and Taylor Santos (transferred).

“Basically the best players in the league. So, losing out on those, it was really tough,” Colleen Niklaus said.

Wong, Raffo and Santos produced a combined 173 goals and 92 assists in 2023.

“I was pretty sad, especially since I’ve been playing with Taylor, Ellie and Siena since I was 6 years old,” Sofia Niklaus said. “But I feel like Skylar and I, we can do it. It’s not too many different people that we’re playing and we definitely, I think, have confidence in ourselves.” 

Sofia Niklaus mentioned they’re stacked with talented athletic teammates despite never having played lacrosse in the past. She’s also impressed on how confident the newer players have become since arriving to the team.

“They can just get out there and they can just scrap it out,” she said.

Junior attacker/midfielder Dillon Fiorita recorded three assists, junior midfielder/defender Claire Skinner had one goal and junior attacker Serena Sanford-Brantley had one assist in last weekend’s important CCS play-in match.

Earlier in the week against Carmel, Fiorita contributed two scores and a pair of assists, while Skinner added one goal. Fellow teammate junior attacker Erin Szymanski added two goals, and senior attacker Annie Gowing had one assist.

Scotts Valley’s stellar defense was led by Skinner, senior Stella Cheney and freshman Campbell Flores. Junior goalie Jordan Stirling celebrated her birthday with a win against the Padres, racking up four saves and two ground balls in front of the net.

Niklaus said winning the draw was also the difference in their match against Carmel, winning 75% of the draws and therefore controlling the game.

Sofia Niklaus had 10 draw possessions and four draw controls. Dufour finished with a pair of draw possessions and six draw controls, and Fiorita had three draw controls.

It was a vast contrast from the first meeting between both teams on March 20.

In that contest, the Falcons had to come from behind to pull off the victory. Sofia Niklaus said the biggest difference is that it’s later in the season, which means the new players had time to get used to the speed of the game.

“I think that this last part of the season, and especially today, we worked really well together,” she said. “We were helping each other out and it’s a team sport. That’s the biggest thing.” 

Colleen Niklaus is impressed with the physicality of the new players and how they’re not afraid to after the ball. It’s another big reason for Scotts Valley’s success this season.

“Sometimes you have like a deer in the headlights just because they don’t know what they’re doing,” she said. “These girls, they don’t care if they don’t know what they’re doing. They just go for the ball. They’re competitors.”

Up next, the CCS playoffs. Colleen Niklaus admitted she’s a little nervous and it’s only because Burlingame has some of her club lacrosse players. Plus, the Falcons are missing two key defenders in Skinner and Hanna Shehorn.

“But if we play like I know we can play, we’ll be proud whatever the outcome,” Colleen Niklaus said.

Previous articleScotts Valley’s Jack Abel, Sofia Niklaus named Preps of the Week | Press Banner Sports Ticker
Next articleThe Mountain Gardener | Garden Inspiration at the Gamble Garden Tour
A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here