Tigers win weather-delayed semifinal

Woodlake’s Eliseo Vargas kicks the ball against Bakersfield Christian this past Thursday night. The Tigers overcame a weather delay to beat the Eagles, 2-1, in the Division VI Central Section Championship semifinals.(Kason Clark)

Woodlake boys soccer pulls out a 2-1 victory over Bakersfield Christian after second half was postponed; Tigers advance to the D-VI Central Section Championship game to face Kennedy

WOODLAKE – It may have taken several days, but Woodlake boys soccer advanced to the Division VI Central Section Championship game. This past Tuesday, No. 5 seed Bakersfield Christian and No. 1 seed Woodlake fought to a 1-1 tie. But at halftime, lightning and heavy rain forced the second half of the game to be postponed to this past Thursday.

In the second half at home later in the week, the Tigers got a goal from Fernando Busio to pull out the 2-1 victory in their semifinal match on Feb. 22. As his team advanced to the championship game, Woodlake head coach Paul Delgado was happy to see how the Tigers played after the weather delay.

“We played great. It was just heart,” Delgado said. “I just wanted them to go out there and play with all they had for 40 minutes and that’s what they did.”

The Tigers played well in the first half on Tuesday as they took a 1-0 lead thanks to an early goal from Eliseo Vargas. But the Eagles responded with a goal from Ethan Watson to tie the match heading into halftime.

During halftime, lightning delayed the game by 30 minutes. Once the delay was over, heavy rain had drenched the field to make it unplayable. Because Bakersfield Christian could not return on Wednesday, the second half of the game was postponed to this past Thursday. As his team had an unusually long halftime, Delgado made sure to keep the Tigers confident and sharp during their break.

“I kept the same routine, the same drills, the same activity and I made sure they kept their head in the game,” Delgado said. “We knew we could do it but we still had to go out there and play so I made that clear to them.”

When the Eagles and Tigers returned to action this past Thursday, it became a defensive struggle through most of the second half. But with under nine minutes left in regulation, the Tigers got the opportunity they needed. At the Bakersfield Christian goal, the ball bounced off the Eagles goalie. Busio then got the deflection and knocked it into the empty net to give his team the lead.

“My coach always tells me to just hit the ball,” Busio said about his goal. “It happened pretty fast and I just hit it in.”

Over the final eight minutes of regulation, the Tigers played sound defense to hold the Eagles scoreless and to secure the victory. After giving up a goal to the Eagles in the first half, the Tigers returned to their defensive ways in crunch time.

“It was the same thing we’ve been doing all year,” Delgado said. “We just have an outstanding defense.”

As the Tigers improved to 16-10-4, they clinched their spot in the Division VI Central Section Championship game where they will face No. 3 seed Kennedy. As the Tigers look to win a Central Valley championship on their home field, they look to do what they have been doing all postseason.

“We just have to hold down the middle, play our game and hopefully bring it home,” Busio said.

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