By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
Waiting for the final whistle can be an excruciating feeling, especially in soccer where officials add injury time at their own discretion. On the other hand, it can be a blessing too, especially for the Sierra Vista High School girls soccer team, whose only goals came in the final seconds of injury time to close out each half.
That was the difference for the Dons, who salvaged a 2-2 tie against host La Puente after 80 minutes and two ten-minute overtimes to remain in first place in the Montview League while improving their league unbeaten streak to 19. (To continue, click thread).
La Puente, just seconds away from pulling off an upset and moving into a first-place tie with the reigning CIF-SS Division 7 champions, allowed Dons attacking midfielder Lizbeth “Chata” Rodriguez to sneak in and redirect a cross from from freshman Jessica Lopez in the 81st minute — just a minute into injury time to tie the score, 2-2.
“That goal just deflated us,” La Puente coach Ryan Lage said. “Though Sierra Vista had most of the possession, we did a good job today of pressuring and keeping the counter up to put the pressure back on them.
“After watching one goal go in during (injury time), the second one to tie it was brutal. To give that one up in the end felt like a punch in the stomach.”
After Alma Rojas scored in the 16th minute to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead, the Dons tied it nearly three minutes into first-half injury time, converting a beautiful combination that started with Rodriguez beating a defender a touching a pass to Lopez, who slipped the ball in front for Magali Moreno, who tied the score 1-1.
Lage had a legitimate complaint with the extra-time added in the first half, especially since there were only six fouls called, none of which resulted in injury delays.
“I don’t know where they got the extra time, but that’s how it goes,” Lage said. “We didn’t defend or do a good job of staying with their runners and they created something.
“The (added) time is frustrating, but you can’t do anything about it. It’s hard to complain if our girls aren’t in the right spots to get the stops.”
It was one of those games, La Puente’s go-ahead goal for a 2-1 lead came on a penalty kick in the 62nd minute — converted by Warriors midfielder Xochitl Gonzales.
The penalty was ruled a hand ball, leaving Rodriguez furious over the decision.
“Our player got knocked to the ground and fell on the ball, how is that a handball?” Rodriguez asked. “I give them (La Puente) a lot of credit, they played hard, but the refs were pretty bad today.”
That’s why Rodriguez felt justified with her game-tying goal, which was her 13th of the season.
“I was starting to lose faith,” Rodriguez said. “But you keep on hoping and the last five minutes I kept waiting and waiting and the opportunity came and I got a goal to tie it.”
That’s Rodriguez, who fought through nagging injuries to help the Dons win their first CIF team title in school history last year.
“We expect that from Chata,” Dons coach Steve Jimenez said. “She steps up in big-time moments, that’s why she’s a star.”
More importantly, the Dons improved to 12-2 and 6-0-1 to stay a game in front of the Warriors, who fell to 7-6-1 and 5-1-1.
“The league title still goes through Sierra Vista,” Jimenez said. “We didn’t get a win, but a tie certainly didn’t hurt.”