HANFORD — After two games, Sierra Pacific looks to be in a better position than they were all of last year.
That notion was solidified in none other than a loss on Thursday. The Golden Bears let a late goal slip by and dropped a tight 2-1 season home opener against Dos Palos (1-0) — a team they’ve never beaten.
“The quick counter attack and the speed at which they play kind of caught us off guard a little bit in the second half,” Sierra Pacific coach Steven Soares said. “Just a couple bad bounces didn’t go our way.”
Sierra Pacific (1-1) came out aggressively on offense and earned a corner kick in the third minute of the game. Senior captain Carson Timmerman put in a great ball and midfielder Gavin Vangronigen had a great header, but Dos Palos’ goalkeeper somehow got both hands on the ball for the save.
It would be the first of a couple close calls for Sierra Pacific.
In the sixth minute, another Sierra Pacific corner was sent into the box, but it was cleared easily. Two more corners in the 15th and 17th minutes came close, but were sent back. They took five corner kicks in the first 20 minutes of play.
The Golden Bears controlled possession early and limited Dos Palos’ opportunities, but were a bit disorganized on offense. Defensively, Sierra Pacific was making great tackles and challenges on loose balls, while making Dos Palos work on every touch.
Dos Palos had its first shot on goal — and only in the first half — in the 14th minute, but it was an easy stop for goalkeeper Leo Olvera. The junior finished with six saves and wasn’t challenged in the first half.
Timmerman took another corner in the 19th minute and found pay day this time. The ball made its way through everyone in the box and to midfielder Ethan Soares who put the easy header away for the 1-0 lead.
“I drop back and hope for the ball to come through everybody and that’s exactly what happened,” Ethan said. “The easiest goal I’ll probably ever score, headed it from one foot away.”
The score would stand at halftime before Dos Palos came out like a whole new team. A big part of that was the insertion of forward Leonardo Lopez.
After having only generated two shots and one shot on goal in the first half, Dos Palos was the aggressor to start.
Lopez found himself one-on-one with Olvera in the 44th minute, but a block kept the game tied. A through ball to Lopez had him with a wide open net as he put in the easy goal to tie the game in the 46th minute.
Four minutes later, Olvera was tested again with a well-placed shot as he outstretched his full 5-foot-10-inch body to get his fingertips on the ball and deflect what would have been a goal. Dos Palos had another chance in the 53rd minute with a free run to the ball.
Olvera came out to the edge of the penalty area to block the ball as Dos Palos’ forward took the shot.
“It’s maybe three or four more goals they score if not for Leo,” Soares said.
Sierra Pacific forward Aziel Torres had a chance in the 56th minute, but Dos Palos’ goalkeeper met Torres at the same time to stop the ball. It was one of the few chances they had in the second half.
“We were a little bit disjointed,” Soares said about the second half. “The kids mentally didn’t play 80 minutes maybe. They were out of sync trying to come back again. They tried their hardest, but it was a little bit out of sync still.”
Finally, Sierra Pacific could hold on no longer when Lopez took a pass and shot one over Olvera for the 2-1 lead in the 78th minute.
“I just saw him sprinting and my focus was the ball,” Olvera said. “That was a nice finish there’s nothing I could do about that.”
Time ended, but the fact that Sierra Pacific hang in the game for as long as they did speaks volumes as to how they’ll fare this year.
“It’s been a hard past couple seasons not being able to win many games,” Ethan said. “To start out the season with a win and then a tough game now, it makes me confident for this season.” Soares added, “We are on the right track.”