As the rain picked up in the second half, so did the Santa Ynez attack.
Monica Pizano made a determined drive through the Pioneer Valley defense on the left side, unleashed a left-to-right shot and scored the winning goal as the Pirates edged the Panthers 2-1 at Santa Ynez Thursday night in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 Playoffs.
Pizano scored in the 32nd minute of the second half. Pioneer Valley led 1-0 at halftime.
The turf was slick, but Pizano didn't worry that she might lose her footing. "I just fought through (Pioneer Valley's defensive pressure)," she said.
"The shot went where I wanted it to (toward) — the far post." After Pizano unleashed her shot from the Pioneer Valley penalty box, the ball nestled in the right corner of the net.
Santa Ynez moved to 15-6-2. The Pirates will play at home at 5 p.m. next Tuesday night against Bloomington in the second round.
Pioneer Valley, the fourth-place team from the PAC 8 League, finished 14-8-2. The Panthers were in the girls soccer playoffs for the first time in school history. Pioneer Valley beat Ventura 3-2 at Ventura in overtime in a Tuesday wild card game.
Olivia Lopez gave the Panthers the lead Thursday night when she scored in the 21st minute. Pioner Valley goal keeper Sara Rodriguez temporarily preserved the lead when she made a diving save in her penalty box.
However, the Santa Ynez attack perked up in the second half. Rozin Kristofferson got to a loose ball on the right side of the Pioneer Valley penalty box and her shot grazed the inside of the right post and went into the net for the tying score in the seventh minute after the break.
The Pirates steadily kept applying pressure, and Pizano eventually scored.
The Panthers never came close to scoring in the second half. "I think we may have gotten a little comfortable after we got the goal," said Pioneer Valley coach Gabe Velasco.
"We sat back too deep in the second half. We dominated that first half."
No, Pizano said, the Pirates didn't need to adjust their formation in the second half. "We didn't change our formation," she said. "We kept it the same."
"What changed was we did what the formation was meant to do," said Santa Ynez coach Rob Cantrell. "We changed directions, north-south, east-west instead of over-possessing to one side.
"When we possess the ball like that, we're very hard to stop. Sometimes there can be a lot of playoff nerves, especially when you get down 1-0 to a good team like PV. Gabe has done an excellent job with those girls."
Although things didn't end Thursday night the way they wanted them to, Velasco and Lopez took some satisfaction in the first playoff campaign for a Pioneer Valley girls soccer team.
In fact, besides making the playoffs for the first time, this season marks the first winning one for a Pioneer Valley girls soccer team in the program's 11-year history.
"When I got here five years ago, it was a three-year plan to get to the playoffs," said Velasco.
"It turned into a five-year plan, we're behind, but we did make it and we have a good group coming back." Fourteen of the 24 players on the Pioneer Valley roster are underclassmen.
Lopez is a four-year varsity player.
"Making the playoffs has been my goal since I've been here," she said.
"It's been hard, all that losing, losing, but we've worked hard (to make the playoffs) and it finally happened. I'm proud to have made history, and I'm proud of this team."