La Quinta players rush Jaylene Manion (8, right) after the Blackhawks defeated Ocean View with penalty kicks during a CIF quarterfinal playoff game on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at La Quinta. The game ended in a tie, 1-1, and remained that way through two overtime periods. La Quinta won on penalty kicks, 4-1, with Manion’s kick sealing the win.
This feeling wasn’t new. In fact, it was eerily familiar.
The girls’ soccer team at La Quinta High School had felt this way before. Just last year, the Blackhawks reached the CIF semifinals on penalty kicks to advance as far in the postseason as any team had in the program’s history.
Thursday’s 1-1 (4-1 PK) win over Ocean View High played out in a similar fashion — one with the emotion and drama that comes with a win on PKs.
But this year, something is different. This year, the Blackhawks will actually play in a semifinal game. They’ll play in a 2013 semifinal rematch at La Serna on Tuesday.
Last year, La Quinta was forced to forfeit its quarterfinal win due to a misinterpretation of a CIF rule. The top overall seed in Division 5 had not been beaten on the field in the postseason, but did not end up with a CIF title to its name.
Thursday’s dramatic win ensured that the Blackhawks will have a chance to remedy last year’s heartbreaking end.
“We made it to the semifinals, just one step closer to our goal,” senior goalkeeper Arianna Rodriguez said.
It’s not as though the Blackhawks are rolling though the postseason, though. There’s pressure to win the tournament, not just for outgoing seniors but for the freshmen and sophomores who know how important it is that the older players on the squadend their careers with a win.
“Because we want it that bad, they’re trying to play for us,” senior captain Aileen Galicia said. “There’s a lot of nerves. They don’t want to let us down.”
In Thursday’s game the jitters resurfaced.
It was the second time in as many matches this week that La Quinta needed PKs to advance. At times, the offense has struggled and the defense has allowed clean looks at the goal, as nerves have prevented the squad from playing as well as it did in December. Head coach Bob Quattlebaum suggested the team is also feeling some fatigue this late in the season.
Yet somehow La Quinta (23-5-1) is finding ways to win.
Galicia scored the first goal of the game, early in the second half to put the Blackhawks up. About 10 minutes later, though, the Seahawks answered back with a goal by Kaci Montoya.
Play stopped for about 30 minutes directly after the goal. On the play that resulted in a goal, Montoya took a hard fall on her head and paramedics were called.
Following the rest of regulation and an overtime period, Reanna Rivera scored on the first penalty kick for the Blackhawks, and Rodriguez blocked the first Ocean View attempt. Kailee Prescott, Galicia and Jaylene Manion added three more goals as Rodriguez prevented two of the next three.
Afterward, as La Quinta celebrated on the field, Rodriguez was told by a friend in jest that they have to stop finishing games this way. It was too intense. The tension of the drama was palpable and similar to last year’s quarterfinal win, but for the first time ever La Quinta is headed to the semifinals.
Though they’ve been here before, this is something brand new.
“Aileen and Arianna and the rest of the seniors are keeping the girls positive,” Quattlebaum said. “But we haven’t played our best game of the postseason yet, and we’re hopeful that we’ll see some of that Tuesday.”
Player of the Game
Arianna Rodriguez. The senior keeper had a handful of saves, but perhaps none were more important than the three saves she had on four PK attempts against her. La Quinta had a handful of defensive breakdowns, but thanks to Rodriguez, only allowed one goal.
Devyn Utter. Next to Rodriguez and maybe Galicia, the sophomore defender was as vital to La Quinta advancing as anyone could be. More than one goal likely would have slid by Rodriguez if it weren’t for Utter, who blocked at least two shots from directly in front of the net.