The Palm Desert girls soccer team weathered nearly an entire season ranked No. 1 in Division 5 of the CIF SS, but rankings mean very little in soccer – especially when you get into the semifinals of the postseason.
Despite dominating the offensive possession and creating more goal-scoring opportunities than host Viewpoint, the Aztecs and head coach Chris Keuilian learned the hard way that tiny breaks, bounces of the ball and luck have to fall your way to win, too, in the team’s 2-0 loss in the semifinals.
From the start of Tuesday’s match, Keuilian said Viewpoint played the defensive, putting 10 players behind the ball with just one forward ahead prepared for a counter-attack. After one shot-on-goal in the first five minutes from the lone Viewpoint forward, the Aztecs managed their opponents, but couldn’t find creases themselves the rest of the first half.
Then, five minutes into the second half, Viewpoint found two. In the first minute, off a corner kick, a Viewpoint player sent a shallow kick that found the foot of a player for a cross before a deflection sent it into the back of the net. Three minutes later, on a hopeful long ball, Palm Desert goalkeeper Alex Fabela had the ball slip through her hands on the recovery, with a Viewpoint player in the right place at the right time to capitalize for a second goal.
Despite a stellar offensive attack in the final 35 minutes, the Aztecs ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
“I think we were the better team, but at this juncture of soccer, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t always work out that the dominant team gets that little break,” Keuilian said. “We put on an offensive clinic in the final 15 minutes. If we got one, there was more coming, but we just couldn’t get that one goal.”
The Aztecs’ coach added that he didn’t witness any of his girls playing with ample nerves, either before the deficit or after – the sign of a mature team from its seniors down to the freshmen. Despite losing eight seniors to graduation – including six who played significant time – Keuilian said his younger girls’ visible maturity, combined with the great experience Tuesday’s experience provided, could be a great sign if the ball bounces Palm Desert’s way enough times next season.
“This can only help us going forward,” he said. “If we’re fortunate enough to get back, it’s not going to phase them.”