Mother Earth proved particularly fond of the green and gold Rio Americano High Raiders on May 15 in the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III soccer playoffs.
With Rio deadlocked with Oakdale in a scoreless game with only 10 minutes to play, a miss-hit from a Raiders forward rolled lazily toward the outstretched arms of Lady Mustang keeper Mackenzie Weiglein.
The sure save suddenly went awry when the ball lifted off an earth-clad clod of dirt, popped over Weiglein’s mitts and found the back of the Oakdale net.
The stunning score represented the only goal in a 1-0 Raiders win that propelled a team ranked No. 7 in the nation and No. 1 in the state (maxpreps.com) to an eventual 5-0 blowout of Benicia in the bracket finals three days later.
“We were out there to play, not to kneel down to the No. 1 team in the state,” Oakdale coach Alfredo Quiroga said. “(Rio Americano) had to work their butts off to beat us, and if we were in the lower half of the bracket, I guarantee we would have made the finals.”
Rio caromed shots off the Oakdale crossbar, but failed to capitalize on quality possessions indicative of a team that outscored opponents 60-7 and ended the season undefeated (18-0-2).
Oakdale nearly took the lead on a sharp header towards the net by freshman Megan Burke after a corner kick, but struggled to keep the ball on the attack against a Rio roster comprised of lanky defenders and 16 upperclassmen.
Over half of the Oakdale lineup is made up of freshmen and sophomores, but inexperience did little to damper play in a postseason bracket that saw Oakdale upset No. 4 seed and Tri-County Conference champ, Inderkum, and award the toughest game to a Rio program that opened the playoffs with a 3-0 win over Vanden.
“They didn’t beat us to a pulp like they did Vanden and Benicia,” Quiroga said. “But they are a good team and I think their state and national rankings are deserved.”
Oakdale nabbed a handful of accolades at the recent All Valley Oak League coaches meeting. Seniors Jill Kahler (forward), Katie Odom (defense) and Gabby Acosta (midfield) were elected to the All VOL First Team, while freshman scoring sensation Madison Feuerstein was designated to only a second-team honor. With 23 overall goals and 12 conference scores (six VOL assists), Feuerstein was clearly one of the top offensive players in the league and second only to Kahler in overall offensive points. Despite missing two league games, Feuerstein had more conference goals than three VOL first-team forwards. Her two goals against Inderkum made the difference in a 2-1 playoff victory.
“What happened was, four players were tied for three spots as first team forwards, and the coaches had to re-vote,” Quiroga said. “Madison was one of them, and I think a lot of the coaches voted to reward (older players).”
Jordyn Cooley (senior midfielder) was also named to the All-VOL second team while Alexis Halsey (sophomore defender) was listed as an honorable mention.
With only six combined All League selections, Oakdale was one of the least recognized teams in the league. Only Lathrop and Weston Ranch (combined 3-25 in the VOL) were less represented.
Oakdale landed the farthest trek into the postseason in the highest division. Kimball was stunned at home in the opening round of Division II while top-seeded East Union was upset at home in the D-IV semifinals.
“I think the girls had to be satisfied with how we ended up,” Quiroga said. “(Frosh-soph) players made up more than half of our team and I know I am very happy with how they played.”