Tulare Western defeats Porterville for first time in at least 10 years
TULARE – A phenomenal start to the season by the Tulare Western Mustangs is evidence that the program has certainly turned a corner in the right direction. They solidified their new identity as a top team in the area after a commanding 18-6 victory against the Porterville Panthers last Wednesday, the program’s first win over their league foe in at least 10 years.
The Mustangs dominated from beginning to end, but the Panthers remained in striking distance throughout the first half. Tulare Western came out of the half time break with a 7-3 lead before letting loose, as they outscored Porterville 11-3 in the second half.
The final score is indicative of how the season has gone for the Mustangs so far. Boasting a strong 14-2 record, their average margin of victory over their opponents has been 13 points.
This season’s success has been built on the back of several key players on the team, including Nicole Tristao who added six goals of her own which matched that of the entire Panthers team. Six other players got on the board for the Mustangs, but they’ve also gotten key contributions from an unexpected source.
Freshman goalie Rubi Martin came into the season with zero experience in the pool. In fact, the coaching staff had to teach her how to swim. Fast forward to nearly two months into the season, the natural athlete has played a vital role in the team’s success. She started the season on junior varsity but was pulled up due to her rapid growth. She earned her first start in last week’s big game against the Panthers.
“She had a cousin that played who graduated last year, so she came out to play [this year]. She didn’t even know what a goalie was,” head coach Jenna McGuire said. “We’re all just kind of like mouths open, hands on cheek like, ‘Oh my gosh, go Ruby!’”
She made save after save against Porterville, allowing no more than two goals in any quarter. The Panthers have been a powerhouse in the EYL in recent years, so the assertive victory was a meaningful one for the Mustangs.
“It means that we built a program that can finally run a defense, that can move and have versatility in our players. And it means that we are pretty darn good,” McGuire said.
Confidence was sky high for Tulare Western after defeating Porterville. It was needed after opening league play last Monday with a humbling 22-12 loss at home to the Garces Memorial Rams, the clear team to beat as reigning EYL champions and reigning Division II Valley Champions.
The game against Garces Memorial followed a similar script as the game against Porterville, except Tulare Western was on the opposite end. The Rams maintained a lead throughout, but the Mustangs stayed within striking distance in the first half as they went into the break trailing 13-9. After their center guards were kicked out, the Mustangs were outscored 9-3 in the second half.
Tulare Western gets a shot at redemption as the two teams will meet again next Wednesday in a game that will likely have league title implications. After a competitive first half battle against the Rams, the Mustangs are still confident that they can hang with one of the top teams in the Valley. Before that, they’ll battle against a tough Monache team tonight at home at 6:30 p.m. and will travel to Tulare Union on Monday at 6:30 p.m.