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Estrella boys can’t advance past semis
Submitted by Casey Pritchard on Wed, 02/08/2017 - 12:00am
Wolves beat Higley, lose to Gila Ridge
Estrella’s chance at redemption fell short Feb. 4, as the Wolves lost for the second time to Southwest Region foe Yuma Gila Ridge.
The 4-0 defeat came in the boys soccer 4A state quarterfinals, eliminating the fifth-seeded Wolves. No. 4 Gila Ridge previously beat Estrella 6-2 Jan. 17.
Estrella (14-3) escaped the first round against No. 12 Gilbert Higley after a back-and-forth battle that went to overtime. The Wolves got a Marco Vasquez goal in the first overtime to win 5-4.
“They never stopped playing,” Estrella coach Michael Navarro said. “We got scored on, we tied it back up, we go ahead, they tie it back up, but we just kept our heads up and kept on each other.”
Estrella gave up a couple of devastating goals, one at the end of each half. Higley scored on a corner kick with eight seconds left in the first half to tie the game at 2-2, and scored with just over two minutes remaining in the second half to knot the game at 4-4 and send it to overtime. However, Estrella had an emotional leader rally the troops.
“At the end of each half they looked each other in the eyes and Trevor Valencia stepped up and told them, ‘Hey, this is it, it’s time to step up. When we walk out of this locker room, we’re going to come out and win it no matter what,’” Navarro said. “They stuck with it, played their hearts out.”
Estrella fell behind 1-0 early, but got goals from Ryan Carr and Seth Erdman to take a 2-1 lead in the first half. After Higley tied it right before halftime, the Wolves got another goal from Carr to make it 3-2, before the Knights tied it again. Estrella went ahead once more, this time on a Manuel Ruiz goal, before Higley’s late dramatics sent it to overtime.
That’s when Vasquez stepped up to give the Wolves the lead. It happened on a play that came down the right wing.
“I got the ball and turned around, saw the defender, it rebounded off of him and I saw the chance and just shot it in,” Vasquez said.
After taking the lead, Navarro had a message for his team.
“Going into that second overtime I told them, ‘Defend with your lives, play with everything you’ve got, don’t hold anything you’ve got,’” Navarro said. “The saves we had, they were all over the place, getting touches, dives. It was an all-around team effort.”
Goalkeeper Eric Vasques stepped up in the clutch, coming up with some incredible saves, especially in overtime.
“Eric Vasques had the craziest saves I’ve ever seen in soccer,” Navarro said. “I can’t explain how ridiculous they were. It was throughout the game, but the last two minutes of double overtime, I told him, ‘That alone should get you a college scholarship.’”
Vasques said it was a slow start, but he got into the rhythm of the game after that.
“At first, I didn’t come out too strong, but once I kind of realized I needed to get it into gear, I got it into my head we needed to win,” Vasques said. “So, I went out stronger, didn’t hesitate, I was talking more and tried to bring the team together.”
The two teams had played during the regular season, with Estrella winning 1-0 at Higley. Navarro said he was surprised the score was so different, but he also wasn’t.
“It was high scoring, but it wasn’t like one team blew the other out; we kept going back and forth,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a battle and we couldn’t give in. We were so evenly matched that no matter what, it was going to be a shootout. We knew what we were up against and had to play for 80 minutes no matter what, and in this case we played for 100 minutes. It was huge.”
Despite the quarterfinal loss, it was a nice turnaround season for the Wolves, which went 10-6-1 last year and failed to make the postseason.
Casey Pritchard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CaseyonSports.
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