The Alisal High boys soccer team huddled at midfield for a few minutes following Saturday’s game at Rabobank Stadium. They then walked back to a steel bench, and many of the players stared forward.
It was silent.
The wind howled around the players. Other people zoomed by the team in almost a stop-motion-like form.
If only the ball had gone a few inches one way or another maybe things would have been different, and they wouldn’t have had to deal with being eliminated from the Central Coast Section Division I tournament.
Instead, the Trojans’ season came to a stunning end at the hands of Carlmont, which pulled off the improbable 1-0 win in the quarterfinal match.
“We might have been pressuring ourselves too much,” said Alisal coach Mark Cisneros. “There was a lot of expected of us.”
It wasn’t as if Alisal didn’t get a shot on goal all game. The home team had plenty of chances, including three in the first six minutes. The Trojans booted the ball with a fury right at the goal several times, but Carlmont held strong. The bevy of attacks left spectators wondering not when a goal would come, but how many.
The Alisal goal never came.
A goal, however, did come for Carlmont.
In the 22nd minute, Carlmont was on the attack on the right side, and Alisal did its best to blanket the ball. Nathan Rosenthal sped in on the opposite side, and the ball came to him about 15 yards from the goal. Before everyone could switch momentum to Rosenthal, he booted the ball in, giving Carlmont a 1-0 lead.
Alisal didn’t fret. It came back seconds later and got a shot on goal from about 20 yards away that was batted away by the Carlmont goalkeeper. Alisal then got a corner kick, and the ball curved to the goal. That shot on goal was blocked away as well.
Alisal kept on the attack. While Carlmont made some saves, other Alisal attempts went barely wide or barely high.
Soon, the clock became their enemy.
Forty minutes remaining became 17 after Danny Pulido crept in to within feet of the goal on the left side. His shot on goal went wide right.
Seventeen minutes remaining became 12 when Pulido came back and did the same thing. He passed to Benito Chavez, but the Carlmont defense was there to close in.
And 12 minutes remaining became six when just about everyone’s heart dropped. The Alisal players rushed on the attack, and the Carlmont defense couldn’t keep up. Goalkeeper Jacob Segal was the last line of defense, and he came out to make a play. The Alisal offense got the ball past him and fired a shot that skidded on the turf.
The ball was on its way to the goal and in, until a Carlmont defender ran with all of his might, slid into the goal and kicked the ball away as the ball hit the blue line.
If the ball went another few inches, the game would have been tied. Instead, it was just another shot on goal denied.
Alisal kept it going. Fifteen seconds later, a shot on goal hit the left post and pinballed out.
There were four minutes of extra time, but Alisal was unable to muster an attack.
And when the final whistle blew, the Carlmont players raced out to celebrate the improbable upset.
“The bottom line is that we’re not coming back on Wednesday,” Cisneros said.
Alisal defender Jorge Figueroa was sad like most of his teammates, but he appreciated how the team didn’t give up.
“We didn’t give up even until the last whistle,” Figueroa said. “That’s how soccer is. You could have 10 chances, but if none go in, you don’t win.”
The Trojans finished the season 14-4-3.
* Soledad 3, Sacred Heart Prep 0: At Rabobank Stadium, the Aztecs advanced to the semifinals with the shutout win over the Gators of Atherton.
Soledad, the last undefeated team in the Central Coast Section, improved to 19-0-2 on the season.
“The players played really well, and some of them played their best game of all time,” said Soledad coach Reyes Mendoza.
With the win, second-seeded Soledad advanced to Wednesday’s semifinals. But the team will be the visitors on the road traveling to face third-seeded Burlingame in a 7 p.m. contest for the right to go to the finals.
The Aztecs played aggressive for the majority of the game and had plenty of looks at a goal. They finally scored in the 28th minute.
Soledad received a free kick from about 40 yards away, and the ball zoomed into a scrum of players. Big man Marlon Lucio headed the ball, and it zipped past everyone into the goal, giving Soledad a 1-0 lead.
The team from south county did all it could to prevent the equalizer. Two minutes later, Sacred Heart Prep came back in a two-on-one, but a sliding tackle by a Soledad defender stopped the threat.
In the 34th minute, Soledad got a corner kick but it was immediately cleared, and Sacred Heart Prep raced down the field the other way.
Andre Segre raced down the right side and shook off two Soledad players. Goalkeeper Jose Villanueva dived to stop Segre, and it forced Segre to change his shot on goal, which went wide left.
Sacred Heart Prep had several more looks at the goal in the second half, including a header by Segre that was blocked away by Villanueva.
It wasn’t raining, but Soledad had weathered the storm, and then the squad put a damper on Sacred Heart Prep’s comeback hopes.
In the 75th minute, Soledad got the ball at midfield and lofted it deep into Gator territory. Fabian Guzman was there to finish the deal, putting Soledad ahead 2-0.
That goal made up a goal Guzman thought he had in the 61st minute, which was called back because of an offside call.
Guzman sealed the game with a second goal in extra time.
Mendoza said his team had to get used to the Rabobank Stadium feel in the early moments.
“It was a different because it was turf, and the south county schools all have grass, so it took a while,” Mendoza said. “But the boys got used to it. They play soccer.”
* Homestead 2, Alvarez 1: At Rabobank Stadium, the Eagles’ lead evaporated late as the Mustangs found a way to eliminate the Eagles from the Division I quarterfinals.
Alvarez got its lone goal in the 13th minute when the players got a shot on goal and stormed the Homestead goalkeeper with second chances. It worked as Jose Alamo fired in a point-blank opportunity to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Homestead, seemingly looking for the sudden strike, couldn’t find it against Alvarez in the first half.
The patient Mustangs were stopped by Alvarez, who seemed to play as if they were the ones trailing in the contest.
It continued that way into the second half. Homestead had one major attack in the 44th minute, when a free kick from 35 yards was batted away by the Eagle defense. A second chance also was denied.
In the 70th minute, Homestead found the sudden strike, getting a lob ahead of everyone. Eli Berman broke ahead of the pack, shook off a defender that caught up to him, and fired it past the Alvarez goalkeeper to tie the game at 1-1.
Five minutes later, Homestead took the lead on an improbable shot.
The two teams battled for the ball about 35 yards in Alvarez territory. Homestead got a throw-in, and Jared Johnson did the duties. He threw the ball in and got it right back. A Homestead forward sped toward the middle ready to receive a likely Johnson cross.
Johnson booted the ball, and it didn’t go as he intended to the streaking teammate. Instead, the ball went high in the air toward the Alvarez goal. Before anyone on the field could make an adjustment, the ball was in the back of the net, and Homestead led 2-1.
Homestead didn’t sit on the lead as it pressured Alvarez into back-to-back post ringers in the 78th minute.
Alvarez got a free kick deep in Homestead territory in extra time, but the ball went right to the goalkeeper.
“We felt like the game was under control, and they (Homestead) weren’t creating anything,” said Alvarez coach Edgar Luquin. “But Homestead had five shots on goal there (in the last 10 minutes) and two went in.”
* Burlingame 1, Monterey 0: At Burlingame, the Toreadores’ hopes of getting to the Division III boys semifinals were halted by the home team.
Monterey, which picked up a shutout in the first round, was unable to get a goal in a game for the first time since a December contest against Watsonville.
The Toreadores finished the season 15-4-2.
* Watsonville 5, Andrew Hill 0: At Rabobank Stadium, the Wildcatz avoided the upset bid, scoring four second-half goals to eliminate the 12th-seed Falcons.
Five different players scored for Watsonville, seeking its 10th CCS title and first in two years.
The Wildcatz will take on Carlmont on Wednesday at Aptos in the Division I semifinals.
* Gilroy 1, Mount Plesant 0: At Milpitas, the highest-scoring team among Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division teams this season picked up the narrow win over fourth-seeded Mount Plesant.
It’s Gilroy’s second one-goal win.
With the win, the Mustangs will face eighth-seeded Overfelt, which upset No. 1 Los Gatos 2-1, at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Pioneer High.
* Palo Alto 1, Alisal 1 (Palo Alto 4-1 PK): At Valley Christian, the Trojans’ improbable season came to an end at the hands of the Vikings.
Defensive-minded Alisal stayed right with Palo Alto after 80 minutes and then two overtime sessions. But Palo Alto put in every penalty kick to advance.
Alisal finished the season 14-4-2.
* Los Gatos 2, Alvarez 0: At Pioneer, the Eagles were eliminated by the Wildcats.
Alvarez finished the season 15-5-2.