HANFORD — The Sierra Pacific boys soccer team didn’t have much to play for on Thursday but that didn’t stop them from turning in an all-out effort to try and upset Lindsay.
The Golden Bears were trying to play spoiler to Lindsay (19-2-2, 7-1 ESL) as they’re currently tied for first place in the East Sequoia League with Strathmore.
It was a more than valiant effort, but in the end the Cardinals were just too much. The final score said 3-0, but Sierra Pacific coach Steven Soares saw something much different on the field.
“I could not be more proud of my team,” Soares said. “We set up a little bit more defensively and it showed because we did hold them to 1-0 [at halftime].”
The Golden Bears played a stellar first half against a team averaging 5.8 goals per game in league. They not only limited the Cardinals to two shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, but had three shots on goals themselves.
Sierra Pacific (4-12, 1-7 ESL) put pressure on in the seventh minute with Marco Sanchez getting down near the end line. He passed the ball back to Juan Juarez who gathered the ball and curled a shot toward the far post.
Lindsay’s goalkeeper was in good position and managed to make the stop, but it was a great shot against a team that allows 1.5 goals per game.
Their only mistake came in the 17th minute when a ball was bounced around in the penalty area. Sierra Pacific tried to clear, but it bounced off a Lindsay defender and to the feet of Moises Betencourt.
The Lindsay forward took one touch and fired a shot into the left corner for the 1-0 lead.
There was no letdown from the Golden Bears as they pressured again in the 21st minute when Sanchez used his speed to outrun a defender down the line again. This time the cross went to forward Carson Timmerman who drilled the goal right in front of the net.
But the referee put up his arm and signaled that Timmerman was offside. It was a crushing blow when the game was seemingly tied.
“I was onside by probably three feet,” Timmerman said. “I talked to the defenders and they’re like, ‘yah you were onside.’”
Nevertheless, Sierra Pacific had to regroup and move forward.
The exact same situation arose two minutes later and Timmerman was called offside again. There was no goal to take away this time, but it was another good opportunity that didn’t happen.
Timmerman had one more great chance at the end of the half in the 40th minute with a long ball that left him one-on-one with the goalkeeper. A well-timed sliding tackle took him down from behind and his shot went wide.
Sierra Pacific went to halftime down a goal, but were satisfied with their position. The defense had bent, but not broken, and they had generated scoring chances.
Soares said the key to the first half was defensive communication.
“Kids talked the whole game, they knew where Lindsay was at all times,” Soares said. “They scored three goals, and I don’t think any were easy.”
The second half was a bit different. Since Sierra Pacific set up so defensively, forwards had to run a lot further than usual on counterattacks. This translated into the team looking a step slower in the final 20 minutes.
Lindsay scored in the 66th minute and added one as the game was ending. The result wasn’t what they wanted, but the effort was all there.
“My kids played their hearts out and it showed,” Soares said. “Anybody who’s here watching the game would know it.”
It was also senior night since it was the final home game of the season. Timmerman and Sanchez are the only two seniors on the team, but Soares said he’s going to miss their goals and assists.
Timmerman leads the team with nine assists and has three goals on the year. Sanchez has the second-most goals on the team with five and also two assists.
“It’s only two seniors, but they’re going to be a big part of our offense gone next year,” Soares said.
Sierra Pacific will conclude its season with two road games. The first is against Strathmore (11-8-1, 7-1 ESL) on Monday and the final game will be against Granite Hills (4-15-1, 1-7 ESL) on Wednesday.
The Golden Bears lost to Strathmore 5-1 in their first meeting and defeated the Grizzlies 4-2 for their only league win of the season on Jan. 24.