The tension was starting to mount for the Redwood girls soccer team.
The No. 2-seeded Rangers were trailing 1-0 to No. 7 Madera in a Central Section Division II playoff game, and the clock was running.
With 25 minutes remaining in the game, the Rangers finally broke through with a goal by Kindal Mendes to tie the game at 1-1, allowing them to breathe a sigh of relief.
“It seemed like after that first goal, everybody took a deep breath and realized we can do this,” Redwood coach Jason Vieira said.
Not even one minute later, the sigh or relief turned into a moment of elation.
The Rangers struck for their second goal, this time by Alyssa Pratt, and they held on to beat the Coyotes 2-1 to advance to the Division II semifinals.
“We came out a little flat,” said Redwood senior defender Ellie Linan. “Cheering each other up was simple once we got the first goal. Then the second goal came really quick. It was really good work as a team.”
The Rangers (21-4-1) will host No. 3 Garces at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday with the winner getting the opportunity to host a Central Section championship game.
“We want Valley,” Linan said. “That’s what we’ve been talking about this entire ride and that’s what we’ve been working so hard for.”
Vieira said that as a coach he always worries about the possible letdown in a playoff game after having a bye and taking an extended period of time off.
And even though his Rangers found themselves in a 1-0 deficit early in the second half, he felt his team was very prepared for the game.
“They’ve been a hungry team and they were practicing hard,” Vieira said. “Getting the first playoff win is huge in terms of morale, especially when you’re expected to win. We came in as the two seed, we’re the favorite and we’re at home.”
Madera struck first in the 45th minute of the game.
The Rangers finally broke through when Brittany Ontiveros made a nice drop pass in the penalty area to Mendes, who blasted the shot past the Madera goalkeeper.
And in what seemed like a blink of an eye, Linan hit Pratt with a long pass down the center of the field, and Pratt took advantage of her one-on-one with the goalkeeper for the game-winning goal.
In a matter of a minute, the Rangers were able to show their skill and versatility with two completely different types of scoring plays.
“It is good for a coach when you know you can score in different ways like that,” Vieira said. “It gives the players a lot of confidence that we can attack and score in different ways. As a coach, it gives you options in ways to attack. It helps to have the girls with the skill set to be able to score on different angles and different shots.”
The Rangers will need those skills against a tough Garces team. The Rams have been a thorn in their side in recent seasons. The two teams played earlier this season with Redwood winning 1-0.
And thanks to No. 9 Tulare Western’s 1-0 upset against No. 1 Frontier, the Rangers now have the opportunity to host a championship game if they can get past the Rams.
“That doesn’t mean anything if we don’t take care of business Tuesday,” Vieira said. “All I’m concerned about is making sure everybody is healthy, get through the weekend and Tuesday come out here and take care of business.”