The Righetti Warriors made the extra effort in extra time and it paid off with a 2-1 victory over the Sanger Apaches in Wednesday night’s CIF Central Section Division II girls soccer playoff match at Righetti High School in Orcutt.
In the first minute of extra time – the 81st minute of the game – Righetti’s leading scorer Kayla Minetti stole the ball deep in the Sanger end, took two quick steps and lofted a shot from the left side, 20 yards out, over Sanger goal keeper Mia Reyes for the game-winning score.
But Minetti’s goal, her 13th on the season, didn’t end the drama.
With time running out, Sanger’s Audrey Reyna had a shot to tie with a free kick from 30 yards out.
The shot was dead on but so was Righetti keeper Carissa Freeman who smothered the ball for her 10th and final save.
“Carissa came up big today,” said Righetti coach Cesar De Alba. “Playing in these conditions with the wind blowing so hard, we needed a big game from her and we got it.”
Seconds later, the clock ran out and Righetti had booked its ticket to the quarterfinal round and a Friday date at overall No. 1 seed Fresno Edison (13-8-1, County Metro Athletic Conference champions).
Righetti (7-10-5) is the division’s No. 8 seed after finishing sixth in the Mountain League.
Sanger (6-17) was the No. 9 seed after finishing fifth in the CMAC.
“It was two different halves. We made some mistakes in midfield and they took advantage of us,” said Sanger co-head coach Jovanovic Mihailo. “This field was great but the wind was brutal. We had to go against the wind in the first half which made scoring difficult. That was a great shot by Righetti to get that second goal. It was a phenomenal shot from a phenomenal player.”
The wind was a major factor. It was howling throughout the game, carrying any ball up in the air a long way. Righetti had the wind at its back in the first half. The Warriors had to play into the wind in the second.
“The wind was terrible,” said De Alba. “But we both had to play in it.”
Defense is a key for both schools.
Neither team scored a lot of goals during the regular season. They didn’t give up many either.
Righetti lost five Mountain League matches by one goal – four of those in overtime.
And while both teams had chances, defense dominated the first half which ended in a 0-0 tie.
“My game plan was to try to defend early, hold the midfield to see what kind of attack they had,” said De Alba. “As the game went on, we started pressing the attack. That’s where our goals came from.”
Freeman turned aside five Sanger shots in the first half while Reyes, with five saves in the game, had four of those in the first half.
“Our midfield was excellent. Emma Palacios and Alissa Castro really held it down for us,” said De Alba. “And our four girls on the back line played a great game, really strong game.”
The Apaches pressed the attack at the outset, getting off three hard shots in the game’s first three minutes.
Righetti had its first good scoring chance in the fourth minute, but the wind caught the ball which sailed high to the left.
Righetti had its best chance of scoring in the 30th minute when Alissa Castro blasted a shot directly at Reyes. Reyes got her finger tips on the ball, deflecting it just over the crossbar.
The Warriors broke through in the 43rd minute.
Macey Cochran made a pass, from right to left, across the goal mouth to Jaelynn Guzman.
Guzman eyed the ball, stepped into it from five-yards out and sent the ball past Reyes for a 1-0 lead.
Sanger tied the score in the 51st minute.
With Reyna bearing down on Reyes, the Righetti keeper came out to challenge her shot.
But Reyna passed to Jasmine Guardado who had an easy shot into a wide open net.
“That was a great play by Audrey to set up the goal. Audrey is our leading scorer (13 goals on the season) but she passed up the shot to set up Jasmine whose goal got us back into the game,” said Mihailo. “But Righetti deserved to win today. I just want to congratulate Righetti and wish them well the rest of the playoffs.”
Two minutes later, Righetti’s Diana Garcia had an excellent chance to put the Warriors back on top with a free kick from 20-yards out but the wind caught the ball which sailed high over the goal.
Righetti put the ball into the net a minute later when Castro put a corner kick in front of the net that bounced off a teammate and into the goal. But the referee waved it off saying Righetti was offside.
Sanger then started pressing the attack, with much of the next 20 minutes played on Righetti’s side of the field.
Rain held off for most of the game but it started falling in the 59th minute and was fairly steady through the 70th before stopping altogether.
After 80 minutes of regulation, the game continued into extra time but Minetti’s steal and goal in the 81st minute powered the Warriors to the quarterfinals.
“They were getting tired toward the end of the game and that’s when we started pressing the attack. It paid off with Kayla’s goal.” said De Alba. “I’m proud of the team. They never stopped working the whole game. We’ve still got our work cut out for us. Edison is another really tough team.”