Tigers win Central Valley title in a shootout

Woodlake boys soccer poses with its Division VI Central Section Championship trophy this past Saturday. The Tigers defeated Kennedy at home in a 5-3 shootout in a 1-1 draw.(Kason Clark)

Woodlake boys soccer gets past Kennedy by winning a 5-3 shootout in a 1-1 tie to win the D-VI Central Section Championship; Tigers now head to the Division V CIF SoCal Championships

WOODLAKE – It may have taken longer than desired, but Woodlake boys soccer eventually got the job done this past Saturday. At home in the Division VI Central Section Championship game, the Tigers could not put away Kennedy as regulation and overtime ended in a 1-1 draw.

Now in a shootout, the Tigers took the 4-3 lead and only needed either one more goal to win the match. With a chance to finish off Kennedy, Alejandro Rosales came through for the Tigers as he knocked his penalty kick into the back of the net to give his team the Central Valley championship.

“I had to make this,” Rosales thought to himself as he lined up for the game-winning kick. “I had to make my fans and this school proud.”

The kick clinched the sixth Central Valley championship for the Tigers, but it was the first for Woodlake head coach Paul Delgado who has led the program for the past three seasons. While it took a shootout to bring home the title, Delgado knew the Tigers would get it done.

“I knew we were going to win it. As soon as it went to penalties, I told the boys that was right where we wanted them,” Delgado said. “It’s good for the boys because we’ve been training since August. We’ve been training three days a week since August so I think it’s just confirmation for what we’ve been doing.”

It was not easy for the Tigers to get here as they had to overcome a slow start to the year. They started the season with a record of 1-4-1, resulting in some players leaving the program. But the Tigers found their stride to make a run to this title and improve their record to 17-10-4. So for goalie Dayr Salazar and his teammates that stayed, winning the Central Section is the ultimate reward.

“This championship means a lot because in the beginning of the season, we weren’t winning a lot of games. Our passes, our shooting, it was all off,” Salazar said. “When we weren’t winning, we had a lot of players leave on us so I’m just glad for the ones that really wanted to win and stay on the team.”

In the first half against Kennedy, the Tigers came out ready to play. Just seven minutes into the match, Miguel Diaz came through with a goal to give the Tigers an early lead. The Tigers were unable to build on their lead, but they played sound defense to stay ahead through the rest of the first half and through most of the second half.

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(Kason Clark)

But with under 14 minutes left in the match, disaster struck for the Tigers. The Thunderbirds broke through the Woodlake defense and capitalized with a goal to tie the match. After playing well for most of the game, the Woodlake defense made a costly mistake that allowed Kennedy to force overtime.

“We got a little bit lazy and didn’t mark our man,” Delgado said. “They just left their man and he was wide open. It was just a simple error and a mental mistake.”

So across the two overtime periods, the Tigers returned to their sound defense to shut out the Thunderbirds the rest of the way. The Tigers were underwhelmed with how they played in the second half, so they were looking to take back control in overtime.

“When overtime was about to start, we told each other that we needed to wake up,” Salazar said. “In the second half, we looked like we were asleep. It looked like we didn’t want to play and didn’t want to be here so we got hyped up, we told the crowd to cheer us on and from there, we were able to communicate and just focus on the game again.”

While the Tigers played sound defense, they were unable to score in overtime to break the tie. So the Central Valley championship had to be settled with penalty kicks. The shootout began with Eliomar Vargas making his goal to give Woodlake the lead. Salazar then blocked Kennedy’s opening kick to maintain the 1-0 lead.

Through the rest of the shootout, the Tigers and Thunderbirds exchanged goals. Eliseo Vargas scored to give Woodlake a 2-0 lead, but Kennedy responded with a score to keep pace. Jaime Navarro then made his kick to give the Tigers a 3-1 advantage. After Kennedy responded with a made kick, Gael Gavirio knocked his kick into the upper right corner of the net to extend the lead to 4-2.

Needing to score to extend the shootout, Kennedy made its kick to make the score 4-3. But Rosales ended the match with a kick right into the middle of the net to give the Tigers the 5-3 victory. As the Tigers clinched the Central Section championship, they also extended their season by qualifying for the Division V CIF SoCal Championships. As the Tigers look to go another run, they will look to keep doing what brought them a Central Valley title.

“We just have to keep going,” Rosales said. “We just have to keep practicing and keep doing the same thing.”

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