The series of events that unfolded last night was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen. Well, not just last night, even Wednesday has to be taken into account. So, to rephrase, these past few days have absolutely stunk for everyone affiliated with the Green Sea. Both boys and girls soccer were knocked out of the playoffs after just one game, on our very field, with both losses coming in probably the worst possible way.
For starters, it was a surprise to many that El D’s girls soccer team was given an opportunity to play a home game. They entered postseason play as the 8 seed, and were desperate to finally get the chance to show the Valley that they had arrived. They saw themselves as the dark horse with nothing to lose, and just when they had victory in their grasp, everything came crashing down around them. After taking an early lead against Bakersfield, the Miners let the Drillers tie it up 1-1 before the end of normal regulation. The Miners failed to respond and the game was sent to PKs, where the Drillers reigned victorious with a score of 4-2. Although I wasn’t at the game, I already had a good picture of the image that soon followed after the Miners banged their last shot off the crossbar. The Drillers stormed the field in celebration as everyone in a Miner uniform fell to their knees. I talked about that moment with senior Defender Makayla Dwelle, and she said the moment the ball clanked off the crossbar, it was nothing but disbelief. She watched a group of girls stampede onto the field and rejoice into celebration. Those girls weren’t her teammates. She sat down on the wet grass and watched. All she, and all of her teammates could do was watch. They watched a different team celebrate on their own field. And at that very moment, that’s when those girls realized it was over.
The very next day it was the boys’ turn. Unlike the girls team, the boys in green entered postseason play in the driver’s seat. They were coming off an opening round bye after securing the number 1 seed, and completing a season that involved multiple school records, an outright league title, and a commanding overall record of 21-4. This was it. This was their year. The boys had finally been given the opportunity that they desperately coveted for 4 years; to win a Valley title. Their first step towards a ring was going to war with the eighth seeded Mustangs of Tulare Western. As long as they didn’t get cocky and overlook their opponent, the Miners would be in prime position to raise the Section Championship plaque. Unfortunately, the clock struck midnight on this fairy tale far too soon.
The Miners ended up falling in defeat by a score of 3-1. Although the score doesn’t reflect it, this game was close to the very end. The Miners struck first on a goal from Jesus Garcia that put them up 1-0. But from that point on, the Miners fell to the level of their competition.
Boys Soccer division 2 Playoff finals
No 8 Tulare Western beat No 1 El Diamante 3-1
No 4 Dinuba beat No 5 Reedley in PK
No 6 Edison beat No 3 Selma 4-1
No 2 Redwood beat No 7 Sanger 1-0
Semifinals on Tuesday
Tulare Western at Dinuba
Edison at No 2 Redwood
— PAG METER (@PAGMETER) February 16, 2018
The Mustangs quickly retaliated with a goal of their own to level up the score, and as the game entered halftime, the Miners look flustered. They had missed a 3-on-1 opportunity in the winding seconds of the first half that would have shifted the momentum right back to their side of the field. The shot went wide, and the players and stands erupted in anger after Tyler Esteves got leveled in the box and no foul was called. Instead of it being ahead 2-1 and right back in control, the Miners entered the half with the game still tied. It was an awfully emotional and colorful halftime. The Miners were frustrated. They were starting to lose sight of how good they were based off of some missed calls from the referees. But once the second half kicked off, this is really where the wheels really fell off.
Everyone at the field kind of sensed what was about to come. A very uneasy feeling swept through the air. The game was still tied, and yet people in the stands, and probably on the field, did not like the position the Miners had put themselves in. Tulare Western ended up being granted a Penalty Kick after another controversial call involving Tyler Esteves. After being sent airborne in the first half, Esteves was called for a foul on a bang-bang play that resulted in the Tulare Western player being granted a PK. The Mustangs converted to put them up 2-1, and then the Miners started to panic.
This was a feeling and a situation that nobody in a Miner jersey was used to. They very quickly lost control of the match, and they stopped playing their game. The predators had finally looked like the prey. Watching from the sideline, my dad and I had both said that it almost looked like the Miners were treating every offensive attack as if it was their very last. There was 20 minutes left in the game, and yet the Miners had already looked desperate.
Tulare Western netted one more goal to seal the deal in the very beginning of stoppage time. The goal was on a free kick that found the perfect spot in the net and just missed the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Grant Cahill. There was a very quick and a very big hush over the crowd once the ball found the back of the net. That was it. Players fell to their knees as if the game had ended on that play. Cahill was beside himself as he got up and punched the crossbar as hard as he could. Esteves, Garcia, and everyone else fell to their knees in disbelief. That’s when the Miners realized that they had been punched in the face, and it was a blow that cost them their season. Minutes later, the final whistle was blown. And just like the night before, it was pure disbelief. The wrong team was celebrating once again on the Miners’ home field. Many tears were shed, especially from the seniors that were realizing that, for most of them, they would never play another soccer game in their life. One of the most gut-wrenching things I had ever seen was looking over and seeing one of my best friends on the ground crying his eyes out. It didn’t seem real, nor did it seem possible. But it happened, and it’s a pill that will be an awfully big one to swallow.
In my personal opinion, I don’t think the best team won last night, or the night before. I don’t say that in a biased way at all, I say it in a logistical way. I believe that if El D and Tulare Western played each other ten more times, I’d take the Green Sea nine times out of ten. Statistically and logically, I believe the Miners are a better team. It’s also in my opinion that a very high amount of mental mistakes is what cost the Miners their season. They knew they were the better team, but when push came to shove, they were unable to dodge the haymaker that Tulare Western threw at them. But in all this sadness there was a huge plot twist, something that revived the happy spirit and reminded me and everyone else how amazing people these kids are.
After suffering the worst and most heartbreaking loss of his career, Grant Cahill walked to the Tulare Western bus. He caught the kids as they were getting ready to leave and congratulated them. After an emotional and very depressing postgame, Cahill took the time of day to congratulate the team that just spoiled the dream season he and his team had been apart of. That right there, was the greatest thing I had seen in a long time. Even in the toughest of defeats, you will still find these kids shining like a star. What I love most about this school is that we don’t have a lot of sore losers. Grant Cahill is a prime example of what it means to be a Miner. Just like the rest of his teammates, Cahill worked his tail off all year, and when the Miners fell short, he gave the credit where it was due.
You don’t see a lot of that at the high school level, or anywhere.
So even on a night where the Miners fell short of a Valley title, they still found a way to walk off as champions.