Devastation. There was no other word for it.
After 100 minutes of struggle and effort, and level with Grace Brethren at 1-1, Coachella Valley’s girls soccer team saw their CIF-SS Division 6 title dreams go up in flames when they were outscored in the penalty kick phase, 4-3. Grace (18-3-1) moves on to host Beaumont in the semi-finals on Tuesday. Coachella Valley finishes its season 18-7-2.
Unable to settle their conflict over 80 minutes and two 10-minute extra time halves, the teams were forced into the penalties, with each team taking a mandatory five kicks. Grace Brethren missed its first kick, but the Arabs missed their second. Grace proceeded to convert three straight kicks, while the Arabs recorded a miss in the fourth round, giving Lancers freshman midfield Leah Pirro a spot kick to win the game.
She converted by slotting her kick to the lower right corner of the net, sending the Lancers into joyous celebration. Meanwhile, the Arabs were left weeping, some uncontrollably, many collapsing to the turf. Long after the final kick, coaches speeches, and parental and peer consolation, Coachella Valley players still could not hold back the tears.
“I thought the girls played well, and showed a lot of heart in this game,” said Coachella Valley coach Francisco Morales.
“It’s an emotional time for us right now. We took it to the No. 1 team for a long time.”
The first half was a congested affair, as the ball stayed in the middle of the park, and both teams struggled to maintain possession. Grace managed to create the better early opportunities, either from getting behind the Coachella Valley back line, or passing over it.
Grace’s senior midfielder and captain Sammi Fisher had the best early chances. Three times in the first 20 minutes she got behind the Arabs defense, but twice she finished poorly, and a third time she was dispossessed in the penalty area.
At the half hour mark, Coachella Valley got its first real scoring chance, and the Arabs took it to move in front, 1-0. Sophomore forward Miranda Torres control a loose ball rolling toward the Grace penalty area, and muscled her way past two Lancers’ defenders before scraping a pass across the top of the area to wide-open junior forward Mariah Godinez.
Godinez took full advantage, smacking a crisp right-footed shot into the upper-right hand corner of the Lancers’ goal, giving senior goalkeeper Francesca Allegra no chance.
But the Arabs couldn’t take the lead into halftime. After the Arabs committed a foul some 30 yards from the Coachella Valley goal,
Fisher stepped behind the long-distance free kick. Despite fluffing her lines in open play with two weak shots earlier in the half, she made amends by thrashing a shot that sailed past stunned junior goalkeeper Melanie Ramirez, under the crossbar, and into the back of the net to tie the match, 1-1, in the 38th minute.
The match came alive in the second half as the intensity cranked up, and each team came out lobbing long balls and running up and down the pitch.
With just five minutes left in regular time, Godinez slipped a through ball through to Torres in the Grace penalty area. She collided with a Lancers’ defender before slotting the ball into the back of the net, and the goal was disallowed because of the contact.
Each team had a solid opportunity to score the winner in the fist extra time session. Coachella Valley junior defender Corely Garcia narrowly missed the golden goal off freshman Eva Torres’ corner in the 87th minute, as she controlled the cross and lobbed a short just over the crossbar from eight yards out.
Grace’s best opportunity game as the second hand crossed 90 minutes when a tangle between Fisher and Coachella Valley junior midfielder Jenny Salcido yielded a free kick from a narrow angle just outside the Arabs’ penalty area. But Fisher blew the free kick across the face of the goal and over the goal line.
Fatigue began to show on both sides in the second extra time period, and chances were few chances.
Grace had the best opportunity to avoid penalties in the 96th minute when Fisher took a direct free kick from a distance similar to her first-half scoring effort, but her shot sailed high and wide right.
“(Coachella Valley) was incredible,” said Grace Brethren coach Vince Allegra. “They gave us the best playoff game we’ve had in the last three years. They were fast, they were aggressive, and they disrupted what we wanted to do today.”
Grace Brethren 1(4), Coachella Valley 1(3)
(Mariah Godinez 30, Sammi Fisher 38)
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Mariah Godinez, Coachella Valley junior forward: Godinez was a persistent pest without the ball, and was a constant threat to make something happen when in possession. Together with midfield partner junior Brianda Rios, they jammed up the Grace midfield and prevented them from playing through the center of the park.
THE SUPPORT: Corely Garcia, Coachella Valley junior defender: Charged with keeping Grace star Sammi Fisher under control, Garcia was solid most of the night. She took a majority of her teams’ throw-ins, and was quick to appear when necessary to forcefully break up any Grace Brethren incursions into her side of the pitch.
NOTABLE: Three yellow cards were issued in the match two to Coachella Valley; Mariah Godinez was booked in the 66th minute when she stepped in front of a free kick and was struck, and Miranda Torres was booked for a hard foul in the 88th. Grace’s lone yellow card was issued to freshman midfielder Makenzie Beaver for dissent in the 74th minute…Coachella Valley goalkeeper Melanie Ramirez ended the night with 11 saves while Grace Brethren keeper Francesca Allegra made nine…Ramirez was involved in a heavy collision in the penalty area after a free kick by Sammi Fisher in the 63rd minute. The match was stopped for two minutes as she was taken off in a cart, and was replaced by junior goalkeeper Jessica Munoz. Munoz made one save before Ramirez returned in the 67th.