Boys Soccer: Tritons points prevail over Rangers in state playoffs

Pacific ends red hot Rangers’ run with 4-3 win in opening round of Division II state playoffs

VISALIA – The Rangers were on a 12-game winning streak which catapulted them to a home game in the state playoffs before getting stuck by the Tritons. 

The third seeded Redwood Rangers nearly completed a late-game comeback to continue their historic run but the Pacific Tritons of Oxnard, Calif. held on in the second half for a 4-3 win March 1 in the opening round of the Division II Southern California Soccer Championship.

The Tritons had the first kickoff at Mineral King Bowl but the Rangers came out ready to play in front of their home crowd, as Redwood’s Josh Saesee scored in the eighth minute. Pacific answered on a throw-in header by Michel Sauceda a minute later to tie the game at 1-1.

Throughout the first half the two teams seemed evenly matched. Both teams would get close to scoring, but were eventually stopped by tough defense. The Rangers finally got their chance in the 22nd minute after getting a break away play and drawing a foul which was awarded a free kick. The Rangers lined up to kick, but just missed the goal, hitting the cross bar and ending their scoring opportunity. Both teams tried to score before the end of the first half, but were unsuccessful in doing so.

At halftime, Pacifica head coach Andrew Navarro had a good idea on what his team needed to do to get the victory. 

“We were a little more aggressive the first 10 minutes of the game,” Navarro said. “We knew how they were playing so we pushed up a little bit more.” 

The Rangers started the second half of the game with the ball but it was the Tritons pushing hard. Pacifica drew first blood in the second half after dancing around Redwood defenders and scoring on a wide open shot in the 48th minute of the game for a 2-1 Tritons lead. A short time later, a Pacifica striker found his way around defenders then took an amazing shot from outside of the box finding the back of the goal to extend their lead over Redwood 3-1 in the 52nd minute. 

With just 28 minutes left in the game, Redwood started to put it in gear moving their way past the Tritons and getting themselves a free kick on a penalty by Pacifica. Ernesto Pacheco lined up to take the kick and the ball just missed the goal, flying high and to the left. 

In the 66th minute, the Tritons made their way down to Redwood’s goal. A throw-in by Pacifica found its way to the back of the goal after an accidental kick from a Ranger defender. This extended the Tritons to 4-1.

Redwood stepped up its offensive attack in the final half when Ernesto Pacheco danced his way around the Tritons’ defense in the 71st minute of the game and closed the deficit 4-2. With less than two minutes left of the game, the quick working Rangers got the ball down field and scored on a header by Alejandro Morales making the score 4-3. Redwood tried to pressing the ball downfield quickly, but the dreaded three whistles blew, signaling a devastating 4-3 loss to Pacifica.  

“Sometimes it just isn’t your night,” Redwood head coach Joey Chica said after the game. “I mean kudos to Pacifica for coming out to play after being down one nil.” 

Pacifica went on to face No. 2 Torrey Pines Falcons losing 5-0 in the semifinals of the Division II Southern California championship. That set up a showdown between the top two seeds as the Falcons defeated the top seeded Redondo Union Seahawks 2-0 for the Division II state title.

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