The Tribe outlasts the Mustangs in overtime to win EYL championship
TULARE – Not only did the East Yosemite League (EYL) crown come down to the last game, it came down to the final minutes of overtime between two cross-town rivals. In the end, Tulare Union came back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat Tulare Western 2-1 in overtime.
The Mustangs had the advantage coming into the game. They had defeated Tulare Union 1-0 in overtime during their first matchup, and needed just a win or tie to win the league championship. The pressure was on the Tribe as they went down early. With three minutes left in the first half, Tulare Western scored off a set play where the ball entered the box and junior Awbry Salazar knocked it in right past the out stretched arms of the goalie.
According to Tulare Union head coach Tony Fernandes, he had to have a serious talk with his team at halftime. Their opponents were playing like they wanted the win more and he needed that to change. After his talk to his team, they got together on their own to rally and figure out their issues.
The halftime pep talk seemed to have worked as they didn’t allow a goal for the rest of the game. In the 62nd minute, the Tribe tied the score after a scrum in the box resulted in their first goal of the match. Heading into overtime, things began to click for Tulare Union as they controlled the ball for most of the time but neither side scored during the first period. The game winning score came off a corner kick by Tulare Union that resulted in a heartbreaking own goal by Tulare Western.
The win wrapped up the regular season for both teams as Tulare Union finished 12-4 with a 7-1 EYL record. They outscored league opponents by an impressive 23-2 ratio, with both goals coming against Tulare Western. According to Fernandes, being back-to-back league champions is a huge accomplishment for the program, especially being in a small town with two other competitive teams, meaning that the minimal talent is spread out amongst the schools. The three Tulare schools account for half of the EYL and the title has bounced around between the three for over ten years.
Tulare Union was led in goals by sophomore Mia Ramirez, who is playing in her first season on varsity. They enter the Division II Valley playoffs as a five seed and will host their first-round match at Bob Mathias Stadium. They’ll play St. Joseph tonight at 6 p.m. Last year they made it the championship game before a crushing 1-0 loss to Centennial.