The Tribe dominated their league this year with a 8-1-1 record
TULARE – Another year, another league title for Tulare Union. After defeating Tulare Western last Wednesday, the Tribe ensured that they did not have to share the trophy with their rivals. It was their fourth league championship in the last six years.
As expected, it was an extremely tight contest. In fact, the score was tied at 0 for about 99% of the game. The Tribe scored the game-winning goal in the final minute, leaving almost no time for the Mustangs to respond.
Both sides had various opportunities to score throughout the night, but struggled to take advantage. When a team has a player as good as Tulare Union junior Jesus Enriquez, it is only a matter of time before he makes an impact on the game. He received the ball about 40 yards away from the goal and battled through multiple defenders before carrying the ball into the right side of the penalty box. Instead of adding on to his vast number of goals this season, he spotted his teammate Moises Cortes running uncontested into the box. Enriquez laid the ball across the mouth of the goal and Cortes put it away with ease. According to head coach Mike Shaffer, it was textbook execution of the play but it couldn’t have come at a more exciting time. Everyone was ecstatic and the entire bench jumped up to celebrate with the guys on the field.
“I felt pretty confident about our play, especially after our adjustments at halftime,” Shaffer said. “I think we controlled the game, especially in the second half, and were on the attack.”
With the regular season now finished, the EYL should have some strong representation in the Valley championship across the various divisions. The games begin on Tuesday, Feb. 11 and the Tribe will be at home against Bakersfield. The two teams are unfamiliar with each other, so Shaffer believes they can’t worry too much about what the other team will do.
“We focus on the things we need to improve on such as our weaknesses and strengths. If we go in, take the game to them and play our style, [we should be fine.]”
This will be their first season in Division II since they were moved up after making it to the Division III valley championship game last year. That shouldn’t matter much as they believe the atmosphere and intensity of a playoff game is the same no matter what division it is.
While the Tribe has the six seed, Tulare Western will be a 16-seed up in Division I. They’ll be on the road against San Luis Obispo. Mission Oak and Porterville finished right behind the Tribe and Mustangs in the EYL standings. They’ll now look to make a run in the Division III valley playoffs. The No. 6 Panthers will be home against Selma while the No. 7 Hawks will host McLane.