HANFORD — Sierra Pacific’s Karter Pate helped pace the 3-seeded Golden Bears with a team-high nine goals — including five in the first quarter — and Sierra Pacific advanced to the semifinals with a 20-7 victory over 11-seed Yosemite.
After a nine-day layoff and a first-round bye, Sierra Pacific looked fresh and rested as they dominated every facet of Saturday’s CIF Central Section Division III quarterfinals match. The offense was flowing, the defense was stifling and the team never let up.
“Pretty solid all around,” Sierra Pacific coach Scott Jordan said about his team’s performance. “They wanted it and they came out and got it done.”
Sierra Pacific (18-6, 10-0 ESL) scored 57 seconds into the match and the rout was on. Pate scored four of the team’s first six goals and Yosemite (15-16, 7-5 NSL) had no answer.
The Badgers managed their first goal with 1:46 left in the first, but already trailed 6-0. At the end of the first, Sierra Pacific led 8-2.
“We usually just get to a quick start every single game, so it was just nothing new,” Pate said. “We tried to just come in that it’s just another game and that it’s nothing special.”
Pate continued his onslaught in the second quarter with three more goals and helped push his team’s lead to 12-3 at halftime. Sierra Pacific caught Yosemite on counters, which led to one-on-one opportunities with the goalkeeper or passed the ball around until they found an open shot.
The offense was well-oiled and running like a smooth machine. Pate added his last goal in the third quarter and so did Ryan Simmons, who scored four goals in the match — the second most on Saturday.
The Golden Bears built a 16-4 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but that lead wouldn’t have been as big if not for a guy at goalkeeper named Ethan Soares. His calm demeanor and sure-handed approach allowed for a few defensive lapses to go unpunished.
“I don’t really pay attention to the numbers until I hear them, I’m like, ‘Oh dang, I guess I did play all right,’” a modest Soares said. “I just take it one possession at a time. It doesn’t seem like that much, but then you look back.”
His personal record of 21 saves in a match is incredible, but he did one better on Saturday. He broke his own record with an even more incredible 25 saves.
“I don’t think it can get any better than that,” Jordan said. “He’s been on fire the last couple weeks and he’s ready for it.”
Things got a bit somber in the fourth quarter when, with Sierra Pacific leading 17-4, an injury occurred in the pool. A Yosemite player had to be lifted out of the pool and complained of having a hard time breathing. It was unclear how he was injured, but applause goes to both Yosemite and Sierra Pacific who reacted immediately to ensure the safety of the player.
Medics were called to take the player to the hospital for precautionary reasons. The crowd gave him a round of encouraging applause as he was taken out on a stretcher.
The game resumed after about a 20-minute delay and Sierra Pacific closed out the match with a couple more goals.
“Just having the right mentality that we want to score, that we want to win, swimming fast, having good practices,” Pate said. “All around, we just played very well today.”
John Mello had three goals in the game, Lucas Cameron had two and Michael Mason and Allan Gordon each added one for the final tally. Ethan Enquist had a team-high four steals, Pate drew three exclusions and Mello won all three of his sprints. There were victories everywhere for Sierra Pacific.
The East Sequoia League champions have a home semifinals match today against 7-seed Tulare Western (13-16, 0-8 EYL) who upset 2-seed Sierra and snapped its 12-game winning streak. Sierra (18-5, 12-0 NSL) were the North Sequoia League champions and hadn’t lost a match since Sept. 16. The match begins at 4:30 p.m. at Hanford West High School.
“It’s just going to come down to who wants it more,” Jordan said.