Cardinals that Soar like Eagles
Sara Carter has a deep history with Orosi High School. Not only has she spent the last 3 years as the girls’ head soccer coach, she has many family members that attended and graduated from Orosi High. Needless to say, Carter is one of many that have deep roots that weed their way back to the school. Born to parents that both graduated from Orosi High, it seemed like she was destined to be a Cardinal and to rep the red and black. However, when she entered high school, Sara Carter wasn’t representing the alma mater of her parents and many other family members.
Carter graduated from Golden West High School in 2010, where she excelled in soccer and earned the right to play at the collegiate level. Immediately after graduating from Golden West, she attended Fresno Pacific University to continue her soccer career. After Fresno Pacific, she went back to her roots and eventually began her coaching career at Orosi High School as the head girls soccer coach.
Carter’s adventure as Orosi’s head coach has been a story full of success. In Carter’s first year at the helm, the Cardinals finished the season with an overall record of 11-9-1 and a league record of 6-2. The Cardinals pushed their way through the Division 5 playoffs before eventually being bounced in the semi-finals to Bishop Union. The loss wasn’t the way Carter had envisioned how their season would end, but it triggered one of the most historic runs in school history for the Orosi Cardinals.
2016-17 was the official arrival of the Orosi Cardinals. While their playoff run from the season before as the seventh seed may have been seen as unexpected, there was no question surrounding this group of girls the following year. They were hungry, and they could not wait to show the valley that they had arrived. And they had the perfect coach to guide them to a championship run.
The Cardinals ended up exploding out to a dominating 23-5 record. They ran away with the East Sierra League title and scored 121 goals while only yielding 22. It was a run and a season that the Cardinals hadn’t seen in years. Carter had resurrected the program and showed the entire valley that Orosi was no longer a team that could be taken lightly. After years of struggle and frustration for everyone in the program, the Cardinals were soaring to new heights.
Orosi was granted with the number two seed in the 2016-17 Central Section Division 5 playoffs. They rolled through the first two games, shutting out Washington Union and Bishop Union by complementing scores of 2-0. The Cardinals had punched their ticket to the valley championship, and standing in their way stood a very familiar foe. Carter’s girls had lost to the Redcats of Fowler twice that season already. With 56 games played between the two teams, Orosi and Fowler had lost a total of six games all season. It was one of the most anticipated valley championship games in recent memory with two heavyweights. And once the first whistle blew, it was an absolute dogfight.
Fowler outlasted the Cardinals 3-0. For the second consecutive season, Sara Carter walked off the field with a very bitter taste in her mouth. Although the loss was a tough pill to swallow for Cardinal nation, they had been given fuel to add to their fire for the 2017-18 season. They refused to let themselves suffer the same heartbreak they had endured the previous two seasons. With that loss to Fowler, the first flicker of a flame ignited. It was a fire that represented the passion this team and Coach Carter carried with them all throughout the next winter. And when push finally came to shove, the Cardinals never looked back.
2017-18 was the dream season Orosi had been looking for. That season was why Carter took the program over in the first place. Her main and only goal was to bring something to Orosi High that the school had never seen; she wanted to bring Orosi it’s first ever valley championship.
Very quickly the stars started to align. Orosi had once again marched it’s way through the regular season and posted a undefeated record heading into the playoffs. They were the top seed and the slam-dunk favorites to win it all.
This was it. This was finally their year. It had been over 100 years since Orosi High School had opened its doors, with the first class graduating in 1912, and 2018 was the year they’d get their first valley title.
“This team was so special because they’re friends on and off the field,” Carter said, “they’ve been playing together since they were kids back in AYSO, so they are extremely familiar with each other and how they all play. It helps the game run so much more smoothly for us.”
Orosi carried their tenacious attitude and team chemistry all the way into its second consecutive valley championship game. The Cardinals knocked off Coalinga and Washington Union to scratch their way back into the title match, where they would greet the Golden Bears of Sierra Pacific.
All the Cardinals needed was one goal. One goal and lockdown defense to fight their way to victory. And when the final whistle blew, Sara Carter and the Orosi Cardinals had finally done it. The Cardinals rejoiced in celebration as they finally got to take home the championship plaque that Orosi High School had desperately coveted. The Cardinals walked off that field still unbeaten and as valley champions.
“I can’t help but be so proud of these girls and what they accomplished,” Carter added, “they worked so hard all the way from October and kept it going into February. That’s a long high school season and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Three years. Three years was all it took for Sara Carter to take a program in shambles and turn it into a program of champions. Ever since her inaugural season as head coach, the Cardinals have posted a combined record of 63-15-3 and own a winning percentage of .778. Three years was all Carter needed to cement herself in school history as one of Orosi’s top coaches. The scariest part for other teams is that Carter and the Cardinals are just getting started. Orosi will have many girls returning next season, including a freshman who was one of their top scorers. So although it may seem too early to tell, all signs are pointing to Orosi once again being the favorite in Division 5.
As long as the Cardinals keep Sara Carter at the helm, they will be in great shape for a long time.