Pushed to the limit in their first two playoff contests — an overtime win and a come-from-behind thriller that went to penalty kicks — Oakdale’s varsity Lady Mustangs ultimately didn’t have quite enough push left in them to grab the Section banner they desperately wanted.
Instead, the team happily hoisting the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV soccer blue banner on Saturday at Lincoln High School’s Alex G. Spanos Stadium was Valley Oak League rival Sierra.
A chip shot about eight minutes in to the second half, going over a drawn out Oakdale goalie Morgan Kinyon, proved to be the difference in the game.
First half action on Saturday saw the Timberwolves more often the aggressor, sending off a half dozen solid shots. One hit the top post and bounced straight down but away from the goal and keeper Kinyon gobbled it up. But the relentless pressure and first-to-the-ball play of the Timberwolves proved to be the difference in the contest, as they kept the push on to open the second half.
Junior striker Joanna Ortiz put the ball in the air and arced it over Kinyon for the game’s lone goal, taking the pass from senior Sydnne Koscielcki and sending it home.
Oakdale seemed to have lost a step from its regular season pace, perhaps a combination of a long layoff, late school year activities and the drain of an already pressure-packed two playoff contests.
“You have to take a lot of things into account,” admitted head coach Alfredo Quiroga. “We aren’t really the same team, we lost Kerri (sophomore standout Kerri Feuerstein, lost to injury, who scored all three goals in Oakdale’s regular season win over Sierra) and that was a big loss.
“We lost some rhythm, we lost some momentum with the two weeks off, there was too much time between the end of the season and the playoffs.”
Along with the layoff, Quiroga pointed to a senior trip to Disneyland, and cramming for finals as other distractions for the squad that left their game a couple ticks lower than it had been.
“It’s not an excuse,” he was quick to add. “We just weren’t physical enough, Sierra was winning most of the 50-50 balls … they pushed us around and we weren’t able to match their physicality.”
It did seem at times like there were more white jerseys on the turf field at Lincoln High than the red-clad Mustangs, as Sierra hustled to every ball and had two or three on the scene each time. And despite a big push at the end, trying to send as many balls as possible to the net in hopes of another miracle finish, Sierra frustrated the Lady Mustangs by sacrificing the body, blocking shot after shot before they even made it to the keeper.
“They had the play that made the difference,” Quiroga said. “They got the goal.”
Oakdale’s road to the finals was an exciting one, giving fans two chances to cheer on the girls at home. They hosted Galt in a 7 p.m. contest on Tuesday, May 17 and had to go to overtime for the win. Galt went ahead with a goal in the first half, with Jess Gomez getting the equalizer in the second half, with just over five minutes remaining. Playoffs include two 10-minute overtime periods as opposed to sudden death, and sophomore Markie Arnold put Oakdale into the semifinals with a goal about seven minutes in to the first OT and the defense kept Galt out of the Oakdale end the rest of the way for the win.
A Thursday match up with Central Catholic was scoreless through regulation, sending the Lady Mustangs into overtime again. This time, there was no score in the first OT and it looked like the visiting Raiders would go to the Section title match when they put in a goal late in the overtime period. But with just a few ticks remaining on the clock, a handball call just outside the box against Central set up a direct kick for the home team. With most of the Central players making up the wall, Jenna Micheletti sent the shot off. It struck the post and bounced to the right – to the foot of Alyssa Kummer, who found herself with plenty of room to send off a booming shot that was over the wall of players and into the top left corner of the net, sending Oakdale players into a joyful jumble.
It also sent the game into penalty kicks and with Kinyon blocking a pair of Central shots and PKs for Oakdale converted by Jill Kahler, Katy Adian, Katie Odom and — for the win — Micheletti, the Lady Mustangs took an exhausting, emotional 2-1 victory and headed to Stockton on Saturday.
Sierra, which already had three Section titles to its credit going in to the championship match, avoided some of the big game jitters the Lady Mustangs may have felt, as this was their first time in the finals.
And though there were some tears on the sidelines when the final horn sounded, Quiroga said his players should be proud of all they accomplished.
“I don’t think the girls should be disappointed, they didn’t win the final but this is the best season the girls have had so far, the first time as VOL champions,” Quiroga said. “It takes time to build a program and now we know we can compete. We’ve got a lot of strong players coming back … the future is bright.”