Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South’s Gabino Diaz battles with a Tulare defender for possession. Diaz scored the game-clinching goal in penalty kicks for victory.
When playing a lower seed in the Central Section boys soccer playoffs, all it takes is one goal for that seed to think it has a chance at an upset and advance to the next round.
Such was the case for the fifth seeded Madera South Stallions against No. 13 Tulare Union in the Div. III quarterfinals Friday in Memorial Stadium.
After playing through a scoreless match in regulation, Tulare Union scored on a free kick in the ninth minute of the first half of overtime to take the lead.
Madera South kept on battling back and Nathan Diaz scored the equalizer in extra time in the second half of overtime and the Stallions won 4-2 in penalty kicks for a 2-1 victory.
“My message was clear to them at the beginning,” head coach Fernando Delgadillo said. “The team with the most heart and passion wins these type of games. I kept repeating it. The team that puts in the most effort and biggest heart wins these games. What can you say? Words can’t explain the heart this team has."
The Stallions advance to today’s semifinals against the winner of top seed Ridgeview and ninth seeded Wasco, who played Tuesday evening.
“We’ll take the extra rest as a gift,” Delgadillo said.
During regulation, neither team was able to find the back of the net, although they had their chances. Madera South had its best chance in the 39th minute of the first half.
The Stallions got a 3-on-3 breakaway and Christian Garcia sent a ball on goal, but it went off the sliding Tulare Union goalkeeper. The ball went onto the left and Madera South sent a shot on goal, but it was blocked on a dive by a retreating Tulare attacker guarding the line. The return shot went off the side of the goal.
Tulare had a chance in the 15th minute of the second half taking advantage of mistakes. Tulare sent a ball in front with a throw-in. Two Stallions whiffed at trying to clear the ball, but goalkeeper Mark Davila was right there to pick up the ball.
With zeroes still on the scoreboard, Tulare had a prime opportunity with three minutes left in regulation. With a free kick from about 25 yards out, Tulare sent a shot on goal, but Davila reached high and caught the ball just in front of the end line for the save.
Tulare had the best opportunity in the first half of overtime with a point-blank shot, but it hit the left post. Finally, The Tribe put a number on the scoreboard in the ninth minute of the first half of overtime.
Tulare got a free kick from about 19 yards out and sent it just inside the left post past the Stallions wall and a diving Davila.
Madera South then put the pressure on Tulare Union and had a chance in the first minute, but the shot was blocked by a sliding Tulare keeper.
Inside of two minutes, Garcia, going for the ball, ran into the Tulare goalkeeper and both players had to be taken off the field. About a minute later, Madera South received a free kick from about 33 yards out.
Gabino Diaz skipped the ball through the Tulare wall and the ball went to the left side. Nathan Diaz stuck out his right foot and touched the ball by the goalkeeper to set off a Madera South celebration.
“I just saw the ball going and had to react quickly,” Diaz said. “Once I saw it go past the defense and hit off my defense, I just ran for it. I didn’t even have time to think. I just hit the ball how I could. I poked it into the corner. I can’t believe it. We were down and once I scored, the ref called the game. It was just an amazing feeling.”
Right after the ensuing kickoff, the referee whistled the end of the first overtime session still tied.
In the five minute golden goal overtime, Madera South had a chance when Diaz sent a laser shot on goal that was just tipped over the crossbar to keep the match tied heading into penalty kicks.
“When we were at midfield, my coaches were telling me to just make one or two saves,” Davila said. “I had confidence in my team and knew they could make their shots. I just had to do my job.”
Jesse Paz led off for the Stallions and drilled a shot to the right side. Tulare followed with a shot over the goal, but Madera South missed on its next shot. Tulare tied it with a goal to the right.
Leonel Arvizu scored with a shot to the left. Davila then made a diving save to his left to keep Madera South leading 2-1.
Diaz stepped up and scored to his right and Tulare Union stayed in the match with a goal to the right.
Team co-captain Gabino Diaz stepped up for the potential game-winning shot.
“I was just thinking to make it happen for my team,” he said. “I always shoot with power and the last one to shoot. I always go left side hard.”
True to his word, Diaz found the back of the net with a shot to the right side for a 4-2 penalty kick victory and send the Stallions to the semifinals.
“It was difficult and we never gave up,” Diaz said. “It feels great to go on. I’m happy with the team and what we do on the field.”
“We were on the verge of saying bye to the season, but we kept fighting,” Davila said. “That’s what happens when you keep fighting, you get a little luck on your side.”