Miners advance to Central Valley championship

(Kason Clark)

El Diamante boys soccer pulls out a 1-0 victory on the road against Lindsay in the semifinals of the Division II Central Section Championships; Miners next face Foothill in the title match

LINDSAY – With a spot in the Division II Central Section Championship title match on the line, No. 8 seed El Diamante and No. 5 seed Lindsay boys soccer played each other tough this past Tuesday night. Through light rain and physical play, the Miners and Cardinals duked it out in their semifinal meeting.

Late in the first half, the visiting Miners finally broke through with a penalty kick to take a 1-0 lead. They then shut out Lindsay the rest of the way to walk away with the 1-0 victory on Feb. 20. As his team clinched its spot in the Central Valley title game, El Diamante head coach Agustin Gonzalez was proud of his team for getting past a tough Lindsay squad.

“It wasn’t easy. Lindsay was ranked higher than us and they had a better record,” Gonzalez said. “They’re a great team, they’re well coached and all the players knew what they were doing. They were organized so we were just fortunate to score the goal and hold them back.”

With their road win over the Cardinals, the Miners improved to 17-6-5 and continued their run through the postseason. They opened the playoffs with a 4-2 home victory over Kerman and then defeated Fresno, 2-2, in a shootout to advance to the semifinals. As the Miners now have a shot at a Central Valley title, El Diamante player Roberto Marquez credits the support from their fans as well as his team’s strengths.

“This team has talent, work ethic, discipline and everything else. That’s what’s been taking us this far,” Marquez said. “And I just want to thank all the people who have supported us throughout the whole season.”

But to make it to that championship match, the Miners had to grind it out against the Cardinals. Through the first half, both teams struggled to capitalize on opportunities to knock the ball into the back of the net.

With about eight minutes left in the half, the Miners got their best opportunity of the night when a Lindsay penalty gave Marquez a penalty kick. Marquez did not let the chance go to waste as he kicked the ball into the upper right corner of the goal to give the Miners the lead.

The Miners took the lead into the second half where they looked to close it out. The Cardinals tried their best to tie the match as they tested the El Diamante defense. But the Miners held strong to finish the night with the shutout.

Lindsay’s Carlos Torres dribbles the ball against El Diamante. With their loss, the Cardinals finished the season with an overall record of 19-4-4. (Kason Clark)

“Our team has been based off our defense but today, Lindsay really made us all work a lot harder together,” Gonzalez said. “Lindsay’s possession on the ball is unreal so I had to tell the boys to stop chasing and get into those positions to make Lindsay do stuff that its probably not used to doing.”

The Cardinals finished their season with an overall record of 19-4-4. Despite some injuries, Lindsay head coach Tony Godoy was proud of the Cardinal’s season that saw them make a deep postseason run. They are also a young team, so they will see several players returning next year. But despite this year’s success and an optimistic future, it was still a disappointing end to the year for the Cardinals.

“We knew we had the team to take advantage of this chance so it’s hard to get this far and it’s frustrating for us to lose this game,” Godoy said. “I’m proud we made it this far but at the same time unsatisfied.”

The Miners next head to Bakersfield to face No. 7 seed Foothill in the Central Valley championship match. As they look to bring home a Central Valley title, Marquez and his teammates plan to keep doing what has brought them this far in order to capture that trophy.

“It’s simple. Just play football, play the way we play and just enjoy it,” Marquez said.

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