HANFORD — It was a match between two familiar foes with East Sequoia League opponents Sierra Pacific and Lindsay battling for a third time this season.
The ESL champion Golden Bears had swept the Cardinals 4-1 and 1-0 in the regular season. What made this game different? A trip to the semifinals was on the line.
The precedent would stand on Friday afternoon as the third time was not the charm for Lindsay.
Sierra Pacific (14-6-5, 7-1-2 ESL) put the game to bed early and shut the door in the second half to secure a 2-0 victory in the CIF Central Section Division V quarterfinals and complete a rare three-game sweep of a league opponent.
Sierra Pacific forwards Olivia Fagundes and Sadie Ronquillo provided the scoring and the Golden Bears’ defense shut down a red-hot Lindsay squad to earn their 10th shutout victory of the year.
The Cardinals (11-12-2, 6-4 ESL) defeated 11-seed Kerman in the first round 4-0 to make it to the quarterfinals and had won three games in a row, including outscoring opponents 12-2.
But the game plan was no different for the Golden Bears. They generated early offensive opportunities and capitalized immediately, which allowed their defense to go to work.
Sierra Pacific outshot Lindsay 14-8 and had double the shots on frame (8-4), including limiting the Cardinals to only one in the second half.
“Overall, I thought we just played our game and we didn’t let them take it from us,” Fagundes said. “We wanted it more.”
That much was evident from the opening touch. Sierra Pacific immediately looked to move down the line or find space across the middle of the field. The instant pressure seemed to surprise Lindsay and catch them off guard.
Fagundes used that pressure three minutes into the game to force a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. Keeping her wits about her, she calmly — and perfectly — chipped the ball over the goalkeeper for a pretty goal.
“I saw that the goalie was out and I knew that if I just chipped it over her head that I had the goal,” Fagundes said.
The early 1-0 lead was all the Golden Bears would need for the rest of the half. Lindsay revved up the pressure with multiple attacks into the box, but the back line of Ashlyn Martinez, Bryn Frauenheim, Amie Walker and Kaitlin Thayer did not break.
Lindsay had its best shot of the half in the 25th minute when a forward got a through ball six yards into the box. They couldn’t field a clean shot and the slow shank was fielded by Sierra Pacific goalkeeper Makayla Alepisco. Alepisco finished with four saves.
“They’re solid,” Fagundes said. “I can always count on my defense to back us up. They’re great.”
Leading 1-0 at halftime, the Golden Bears were in prime position for a win.
“Scoring early on gives us confidence and it carries through,” Sierra Pacific coach Christa Smith said. “When the girls are relaxed and when they can take a little bit of a deep breath, they play better, so scoring early takes a little bit of pressure off and then they can play their game.”
The Golden Bears do two things very well in the second half of games: they wear down opponents with their athleticism and keep the ball in the attacking third. Friday was no different.
The offense forced multiple defenders and midfielders to attack the ball, but Sierra Pacific was first to 50-50 balls and played with a sense of urgency. After zero corner kicks in the first half, they earned four in the second half, a testament to their ball control.
Sierra Pacific punched their ticket to the semis in the 55th minute when Ronquillo dribbled into the box, beat a defender and uncorked a shot toward the net. Lindsay’s goalkeeper got her hands on the ball, but it wasn’t fielded cleanly and the ball dribbled across the goal line for the score.
The Golden Bears controlled the ball for the rest of the time and limited the Cardinals to two shots in the second half.
“Our defense, everybody, had to be on it because there were more bodies up there that they had to mark up with,” Smith said. “Our defense worked extra hard to keep up with their offense.”
Sierra Pacific advances to the semifinals for the first time since they won the CIF Central Section Division VI championship in 2014.
The Golden Bears will take a five-hour road trip to Bishop to play the No. 2-seed Bishop Union Broncos (15-4-4, 8-1-1 HDL) today at 6 p.m.
The Broncos were the High Desert League co-champions this season and haven’t lost a game since Jan. 9 compiling a 10-0-1 record since then. Bishop Union defeated Dos Palos 2-0 in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“It’s a team we don’t know so we’re looking forward to going into a game where they just need to play their best and play up to Bishop’s level,” Smith said. “It should be exciting [to see] a fresh new team.”