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Boys Soccer Makes History with Quarterfinal Appearance
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Friday, February 24, 2012
Pioneer Valley Panther Josh Cortez fights for the ball in a 2-0 loss to Colton High during a CIF playoff quarterfinal game at Pioneer Valley.  Photo by Daniel Dreifuss/SM Times
Pioneer Valley Panther Josh Cortez fights for the ball in a 2-0 loss to Colton High during a CIF playoff quarterfinal game at Pioneer Valley. Photo by Daniel Dreifuss/SM Times

Coming into Tuesday’s game against the Colton High Yellowjackets, Pioneer Valley’s boys soccer team already made it farther than any other team in school history with its run to the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs.

However, despite the fiercest of efforts, the Panthers’ season came to an end as they fell 2-0 to the Yellowjackets Thursday at Pioneer Valley High School.

“It’s the quarterfinals, so everybody knows eachother’s strengths and weaknesses,” Pioneer Valley head coach Humberto Robles said. “They finished the opportunities and we didn’t — That was the difference.”

The Panthers were the last Central Coast boys soccer team standing.

Early on, neither team was able to gain momentum. Both teams had opportunities to score and strike first, but shots either sailed high or were stopped by the goalies.

The game was tied at 0-0 at halftime.

In the second half, the game turned as Colton began to make plays.

First in the 43rd minute, Colton’s Cesar Barajas fought off multiple Pioneer Valley defenders and shot one past the outstretched hands of Pioneer Valley goalie Miguel Mendez to put Colton up 1-0.

The Panthers had a chance to respond a minute later when Josh Cortez let loose a rocket from twenty yards out, however, the kick sailed right into the hands of Yellowjackets goalie Kenny Koperski, ending the Panthers’ opportunity.

Koperski finished the game with six saves to help his team to a win.

“Hands down to my goalie, he kept the team alive when the Panthers were attacking us,” Colton head coach Armando Ponce said. “That helped us get out of the rut — he basically saved the game for us — without him we would have lost.”

Pioneer Valley had three more shots on the Colton goal, but weren’t able to convert any of the goals to tie the game.

Up 1-0 in the 79th minute, Yellow Jacket Ernesto Alcala put on a dazzling display of moves while bouncing the ball of his chest to get behind the Panther defenders and pull the goalie Mendez out. He got by Mendez and scored to put his team ahead 2-0, a score which would seal the victory.

Mendez did end the game with three saves.

Pioneer Valley desperately tried to get back in the game, but there was not enough time left as Colton employed a tight defensive formation in the final minutes.

The loss ends Pioneer Valley’s journey in the playoffs and sent the Yellowjackets into the semifinals.

“It’s the CIF Playoffs and it’s all about heart and stamina,” Ponce said. “Coming out to anybody’s home is tough, considering they have steam from beating the number two seed.

“I think it was just a matter of my boys showing up to play. A lot of my boys are seniors and I told them don’t live your life with regrets and make sure you can go home and you can tell your family and friends that we made it to the semifinals.”

Despite the loss, coach Robles was proud of how his team played all year long.

“Overall it was a great season,” he said. “I’ve been head coach for the varsity team for five years and this is the first time that we made it to the quarterfinals.

“This was big for us to get here.”

By Chris Aguirre, Sports Writer / Santa Maria Times / February 24, 2012

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