By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
VISALIA – Golden West head coach Kevin Tilley was on the wrong side of his first title appearance. The No. 3-seeded Blazers let the No. 4-seeded Mission Oak Hawks snag the Division III Valley Championship from their grasp 1-0.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better finals game,” Tilley said. “Mission Oak is pretty strong team. There’s no doubt about that. It came down to one game and we got the short end.”
After the Blazers (18-4-4, 7-2-1) and the Hawks (20-5-4, 7-1-2) exchange attacks during the first half, Mission Oak made Golden West pay for a defensive mistake. Golden West shifted to the left side of the field to defend a Mission Oak attack, but shifted too far. Mission Oak’s Brianna Alvarez ran into the space left open and scored on a pass from teammate Gissel Mora.
Through the rest of the game Golden West sent every attacker they had toward the Mission Oak goal. Both Kaitlyn Tilley and Izabel Pelayo had multiple shots to tie up the game, but most went wide before they threated to go in.
One shot appeared to completely cross the goal line after it bounced directly down after hitting the cross bar, but the line judge singled no goal.
Golden West was still without striker Serina Oceguera for the finals. Before being injured in the Blazers’ opening round win over the Selma Bears, she had a team leading 33 goals. Her absence left a noticeable gap along the Blazers’ front line which usually has three attackers.
“Her being out put a lot of pressure on our other attackers,” Kevin said.
Kevin is happy with how his team did adjust and made it to the finals through a tough upset over West Yosemite League rival the No. 2-seeded Hanford Bullpups (19-5-2, 7-2-1) 2-1.