Mustangs lose 2-1 to Centennial in first round of Valley playoffs
TULARE – The beginning and end of the season did not go as planned for Tulare Western as they started 1-4-1 but then won seven of the next eight games. However, in their last two games, they lost the East Yosemite League championship to Tulare Union and then lost in the first round of the Division II Valley playoffs to Centennial.
Tulare Western came out strong in the first half of the playoff opener. They spent a lot of the first half on their opponents’ side of the field, specifically in the box. Their senior leader Amari Bailey got in on the right side and was fouled, which resulted in a free kick by senior Isabella Salcedo. She knocked it over the head of the goalie into the back of the net from a difficult angle on the right side of the box from nearly 20 yards out.
That goal led to a burst of energy by the Mustangs where they were in total control of the game. It didn’t last long as Centennial, the reigning Division II Valley champions, finally got their offense going at the end of the half. The Mustangs made a critical mistake which led to a goal for their opponent. According to Tulare Western head coach Scott Rogers, his team committed a foolish foul which led to a set piece that Centennial scored on.
“We had about a 15-minute spurt, where we were just dominant. But we went away from what we were doing and what was creating chances and opportunities,” Rogers said.
Both teams came out pretty evenly matched in the second half. They went back and forth for more than half of the period with very close shots on both goals. The Golden Hawks finally broke the tie after a well-placed pass led to a perfectly placed ball over the head of the Mustang goalie, which put them ahead 2-1.
The Mustangs had their chances to tie but couldn’t capitalize. One of their best opportunities came within the last ten minutes, but Centennial goalie Bella Salazar made an impressive diving deflection to preserve the lead for her team. Moments later she made another strong save in a scrum following a Tulare Western set piece.
Heading into next year, the Mustangs will be replacing six seniors which includes Bailey, their leading goal scorer. Their other leading scorer, junior Aubrey Salazar, will be returning to play an even bigger role to fill the gap. A young player with potential to be a future leader will be Milea Rogers who was one of three freshmen on the squad, and is the daughter of Coach Rogers.