SOCCER: Aztecs net three goals in final eight minutes to beat Tigers

Farmersville’s persistent attack on Woodlake defense pays off in 5-2 win for their final game before playoffs

WOODLAKE – The Farmersville Aztecs score three goals in just eight minutes at the end of their final league game. The Aztecs are in second place in the East Sequoia League heading into playoffs.

After leading 2-1 heading into the second half, the Aztecs were caught off guard by the Tigers tying the game just 30 seconds into the second half. For the next 30 minutes, the Aztec offense battled against the Tigers’ defense as they tried to regain the lead. With just eight minutes remaining, the Aztecs finally scored. Then, a minute later, they scored again. Finally, they sealed the win, scoring a fifth goal with just two minutes remaining. The Aztecs finished off their league season with a 5-2 win over the Woodlake Tigers on Thursday, Feb. 9 in second place in the East Sequoia League.

“It was definitely a little rough,” Farmersville head coach William Cifuentez said. “[Woodlake] definitely came out to play. But we picked it up at the end and we finished it.”

The Aztecs dominated possession of the ball in the second half, setting up shot after shot on the Woodlake goal until they wore down the Tigers’ defense. Though Woodlake had a few breakaways, neither team had broken the tie with less than ten minutes remaining. As it got more aggressive, the Aztecs were awarded a free kick just inside the Woodlake zone.

The Farmersville offense lined up inside the Woodlake penalty box. The ball sailed over most of the players and landed right in front of the goal where it was kicked around a few times before junior Daniela Alfaro managed to kick it in. The Aztecs only celebrated the game-winning goal for a few seconds before quickly getting back to work attacking the Woodlake goal.

A minute after the Alfaro goal, the Aztecs took another free kick in the Woodlake zone. Sophomore Jocelyn Ortiz took the free kick from a few yards outside the penalty box. This time, there was no battle in front of the net, the defender sent it straight past the Woodlake goalie’s outstretched hands for a fourth goal. Alfaro then hammered home the win and scored a fifth goal with just two minutes remaining. The two goal scorers in the first half were senior Maria Torres and freshman Mariana Cisneros.

“Last year we didn’t even win a single game,” Cifuentez said. “This is definitely a big jump from last year.”

The Aztecs are ranked second in the East Sequoia League behind Corcoran. Corcoran is the only team the Aztecs couldn’t beat in league play. Their first game against the Panthers was a 2-0 loss in overtime and the second ended in a 0-0 tie. Cifuentes said that the tie game against Corcoran on Feb. 3 was the best game the Aztecs played all season.

The Aztecs are young, with nine freshmen and three sophomores on their roster. To go from zero wins to ten wins and make the playoffs in one season is an impressive feat for any team. The Aztecs will be in division VI for playoffs and expect to be a low seed. Higher seeds get a home field advantage during playoffs, so the Aztecs will have to prepare to travel a fair distance and play teams at a higher level than they’ve faced so far.

“We’re definitely young, very immature,” Cifuentez said. “But we’re one of the best teams in the Valley if we take it seriously.”

The Aztecs struggled in the middle of the game against Woodlake’s speed. Just before the second half kickoff, Cifuentez warned his team that Woodlake was going to go straight down the center of the field for a breakaway goal off the kickoff. When the whistle blew, the Tigers played exactly as Cifuentez warned, but the Aztecs were caught off guard and allowed the goal that tied the game anyway.

“We noticed in the first half on their kickoff they like to play all their players from [within the first five yards of the center line],” Woodlake head coach Lindsay Porter said. “So I just said ‘beat them. We’re faster. Send that ball through, beat them and get that ball in the back of the net.’”

The strategy worked. Freshman Anna Villaviciento sent the ball down the middle of the field and took off running to net her second goal of the night. The Aztecs failed to catch her and spent the next 30 minutes on the attack. Woodlake’s goalie, Denise Perez-Ortega, faced shot after shot as the Aztecs tried to wear her down. Perez-Ortega never played goalie before this season and in fact had not played soccer at all in a few years, but the Aztecs gave her a lot of experience just in the second half alone.

“She’s grown so much from having never played keeper,” Porter said. “And our defensive line is young, which is great because they’re going to keep growing.”

The loss against Farmersville marked the end of the season for the Woodlake Tigers, who finished in third place in the ESL and won’t be going to playoffs. The Tigers are also a young team who gained a lot of experience this season and will be back next year to try again. Woodlake seniors Adilene Jimenez, Natalia Fabian-Burgos and Jennifer Espinoza were honored as graduating seniors before the game.

While the Tigers pack up their cleats, the Aztecs are preparing for their first playoff run since 2017. Though they expect a low seed, they’re determined to take it as far as they can. Brackets will be announced for playoffs on Feb. 11.

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