Cathedral City’s Cynthia Hernandez took her place 10 yards in front of the Coachella Valley goal on a corner kick with less than 60 seconds remaining.
She planted both feet and waited. As the ball kicked by Allyssa Godinez soared toward her, Hernandez took one step in, then two steps out, carefully watching the ball and positioning herself.
Once the ball arrived, she exploded toward it. Using her head, Hernandez directed the trajectory of the ball into the only safe spot — an inch above the goalkeeper’s fingertips and two inches below the top of the goal post.
“You just know it’s going to go in sometimes,” Hernandez said. “It’s just the perfect ball and that’s what was going through my head.”
Hernandez’s goal in the 79th minute was all Cathedral City needed to earn a huge league victory to hold on to second place in the Desert Valley League standings. It also stole the show from Arabs’ goalie Elizabeth Angulo, who played a brilliant game in the net.
Angulo kept Coachella Valley in the game with a bevy of unbelievable saves. She ended the game with 10 saves, and came within inches of getting yet another in those final moments.
“I think that’s the best goalie in the league,” Cathedral City coach Jorge Polanco said. “She can block shots, she can come out and take out corner kicks. Fortunately this one worked in our favor, but she was amazing throughout the night.”
Coachella Valley coach Francisco Morales pulled Angulo aside and reiterated as much to his goalie after the game.
“She’s a special one,” Morales said. “That’s what I told her as she was kind of hanging her head. But she played a great game.”
Both teams had plenty of missed opportunities throughout the match. They took turns finding fast break opportunities, while the opposing crowds traded spurts of anxiety. It was about as exciting as scoreless games get.
Ultimately, though, Cathedral City controlled the ball more in the final moments and there was a sense that perhaps something may come of it.
“I told them in the locker room, ‘You fight to the end, you don’t quit,’ ” Polanco said. “Something good will always happen if you stick together.”
The Lions earned a number of corner kicks in the final two minutes. All, of them, but the final one, were fruitless.
The players were told that there was a minute remaining just before the final kick from the corner. So there was a sense of urgency.
“In that situation you’ve got to know where the ball is going to be,” Hernandez said. “You’ve got to be able to read the other defenders, too. You need to be in the right spot.”
She was, and merely a few inches could be the difference at the end of the season with only four DVL teams guaranteed to make the playoffs. It’s that close of a race.
“Before the kick went off we told them specifically what player not to lose,” Morales said, referencing Hernandez. “And she just got away from us.”