Three weeks ago the Oakdale Mustangs varsity boys playoff chances seemed dim. They were struggling and battling for a top four spot in the Valley Oak League (VOL). Catching fire late, the team then won five of their last six games and finished second in the VOL.
They entered the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs on Tuesday, Feb. 21 as the No. 6 seed, hosting No. 11 Patterson in a 6 p.m. game; the contest was held after The Leader went to press.
“We never thought we would miss the playoffs. Our team is a veteran team with lots of experience, so we did not look at it as if our season would end,” head coach Alfredo Quiroga said about solidifying their VOL standing over the final couple of weeks.
The experience he speaks of is the 15 seniors on his roster. On Monday, Feb. 13 those 15 seniors were honored at The Corral for Senior Night 2017.
“This group is special. They are the last group to play under coach Jaime Martinez in the competitive league and have been playing with each other for a long time,” Coach Quiroga said.
That night the team hosted Central Catholic for a playoff spot. Entering the game, Oakdale was in third place and needed a win to stave off elimination. Down 3-1 in the second half, Oakdale scored three straight goals to win 4-3 and punched its ticket to the playoffs. Goals by Collin Harrity, Wes Allen and two by Winslow Barrales powered the team to their fifth straight win to complete the regular season.
“We knew we had to win, after Winslow scored his first goal to tie the game, it lifted us and then we just pounded away after that,” senior Wesley Allen said of the team’s turning point in the second half.
“We stayed very focused and determined throughout the night. The team never lost a positive attitude and we never once thought we were going to lose,” Quiroga added.
Over the last two seasons the Mustangs have found success in the postseason. In 2015 the team won the CIF Section Championship and in 2016 they returned to the finals but came up short.
Winners of the Tuesday night first round games move on to play again on Thursday, Feb. 23. If Oakdale defeated Patterson, they would take on the winner of the Lincoln of Lincoln (No. 3) and Christian Brothers (No. 14) contest.
Oakdale’s junior varsity boys finished the season with a record of 10-2-0, the team won against Central Catholic via forfeit. Oakdale finished half a game back of first place Manteca. Coach Jamie Martinez was pleased with the team’s effort.
“We had a great season. The boys really learned and grew a lot as a team,” Martinez noted. “The sophomores picked up where they left off last season, and the freshmen contributed more and more as the season progressed.”
Though the sophomores will move on, the freshmen should provide a good base from which to start next season.
“The program overall is as strong as ever and we are already excited about playing club ball and continuing to work with the boys,” said Martinez.