Miners fall short in Regionals

(Kason Clark)

El Diamante boys soccer suffers a 3-2 loss to Del Oro in the first round of the Division II NorCal Championships; Miners end their season with an overall record of 17-8-5

VISALIA – After falling in the Division II Central Section Championship game, El Diamante boys soccer was looking to rebound in the first round of the Division II NorCal Championships this past Tuesday night. The Miners got to host the Del Oro Golden Eagles at Visalia Community Stadium and were looking to jumpstart a run towards the regional championship match.

Things looked promising as the Miners led 2-1 early in the second half and just needed a strong finish to advance to the semifinals. Instead, the Golden Eagles scored two unanswered goals to defeat El Diamante, 3-2, to move forward in the tournament. As the season came to an end on Feb. 27, El Diamante head coach Agustin Gonzalez III believes the Miners played tough in their final outing.

“It was a battle. That’s what happens when two teams that are finalists in the CIF play each other,” Gonzalez said. “Credit to Del Oro. They’re a good team. They were able to hold it down on defense and limit us to only two goals.”

It was a tight contest as the Miners and Golden Eagles went back and forth throughout the night. Just seven minutes into the contest, Damien Valeriano-Perez slipped past the El Diamante defense to score and give Del Oro an early lead. But late in the first half, El Diamante responded when Joshua Urista dropped his kick over the goalie into the net to tie the match.

Early in the second half, the Miners looked to build on their lead. They had the chance to do that when a Del Oro mistake gave Roberto Marquez a penalty kick. Marquez capitalized on the opportunity as he drilled his kick into the net to give the Miners a 2-1 lead. As the Miners seized control of the contest, Gonzalez believes they built off the momentum of their goal in the first half.

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El Diamante’s Joshua Urista dribbles the ball against Del Oro this past Tuesday night. The Miners lost, 3-2, to Del Oro in the first round of the Division II NorCal Championships. (Kason Clark)

“I always tell the boys that the first five minutes after a goal is important so once we scored, they knew there was a good chance for us to get another one,” Gonzalez said. “So that’s why they were going hard trying to get that other goal and it worked out.”

But momentum would not remain on the Miners’ side. With about 20 minutes left in the match, Logan Webster came through for Del Oro with a header into the net to tie the match. Minutes later, a red card put El Diamante’s David Medina on the sideline in crunch time. Del Oro then capitalized on Medina’s absence when Beckham Pointer knocked his kick into the goal to give his team a 3-2 lead with just under five minutes left on the clock.

“We were down a guy,” Gonzalez said about the late Del Oro goals. “The boys tried to rally back together and we put a forward back at defense but Del Oro just took advantage of us being short handed.”

Through the final minutes of regulation and an extra four minutes of stoppage time, the Miners failed to score to keep their season alive. With their loss, the Miners finished their season with an overall record of 17-8-5.

While it was a tough way to end the season, Gonzalez remains proud of his senior class. During their first two years in the program, this group did not even make the playoffs. Then in their junior year, the Miners qualified for the postseason but lost in the quarterfinals. As these seniors went on a deep postseason run in their final season together, Gonzalez appreciates their contributions to El Diamante boys soccer.

“It was just a great year,” Gonzalez said. “This year, being able to make it to the Central Valley championship game, it just speaks a lot to the senior leadership in turning the program back around so the boys did a really good job.”

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