Thursday afternoon’s playoff game for the La Quinta boys’ soccer team wasn’t as much a tale of two halves for the hosts as it was a story of 30 forlorn minutes.
After dominating visiting Centennial High (Corona) in the opening half of their first round CIF Division-II postseason matchup, the Blackhawks unraveled in an eventual 3-1 season-ending loss to the Huskies.
La Quinta — DVL co-champions this season and the No. 7 ranked team in Division II entering the postseason — showed ample home swagger throughout the opening 30 minutes. Showing enhanced quickness, muscle and footwork, the Blackhawks’ grabbed a 1-0 edge compliments of a fine header goal from diminutive dynamo Jesus Avalo.
Such dominance extended to La Quinta’s first half defensive swarming, which limited Centennial to two shots on net.
Yet, when the Huskies tied the score at 1-1 with a top shelf boot from Jose Ramos eight minutes into the second half, the Blackhawks offered little reply. Centennial would score again 21 minutes later before another tally in the game’s waning minutes authored the final margin.
“We were in control for the most part and feeling pretty confident out there, but we kinda let up a little bit and they (Centennial) took advantage of it,” said Blackhawks head coach Gary Nadler. “Some of it … we got complacent. Even after they scored and made it 1-1, it was alright, still a 50/50 game. I don’t think we got tired in the second half, but we just didn’t press as hard as we did in the first half.”
The loss for La Quinta (14-4-5) concluded a two-year run of playoff wins and marked just the second time since 2007 in which the Blackhawks failed to advance to the second round of CIF.
Centennial entered the contest with fine credentials of its own, having lost just three games this season en route to a shared championship in the Big VIII League.
“One of our goals this year was the DVL championship and we got half of that,” Nadler said. “But for the most part, we always shoot to play in March, so none of these guys will walk away happy knowing we didn’t get there. So, we got halfway to where we wanted to be this year.”