Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South co-captain Angel Avila gets his head on the ball during the Stallions’ quarterfinal victory over Fresno. Avila scored the game-tying goal.
The Madera South Stallions boys soccer team showed its rightful place at the top of Div. III with a come-from-behind victory over the ninth-seeded Fresno Warriors in the quarterfinals of the Central Section playoffs in Memorial Stadium.
“It was not a pretty win, but it was a team win,” Madera South head coach Enrique Garcia said. “Our defense played a great game — stopping counter attacks and Fresno’s quick play. They don’t get enough credit for all their hard work. Allowing 25 goals in 26 games is impressive.”
Angel Avila and Abraham Vasquez sparked the Stallions’ rally after the Warriors scored on an error by Luis Segura. Segura faltered, but the Stallions picked him up and showed how dangerous they can be when switched on.
“Abraham and David Vasquez both were hyped up for this match up. You could tell they were ready before game time,” Garcia said on his forwards. “Abraham has been a huge part of our success this year. He has a lot of heart and it always shows on the field. He stepped up big time in a game that Christian (Garcia) was not able to play. He is a player that we can always look to if we need something offensively. David Vasquez also is a big-time player that can be crucial in our playoff run.”
Madera South needed its leaders to step up in Christian Garcia’s absence and that’s exactly what they did. Madera South didn’t have Garcia, but his presence was still felt on the pitch.
“Christian had to serve his red card from our last league game against Madera high. He was involved in an altercation with one of the other teams’ players and received a double yellow,” Garcia said on his star players absence. “He made a mistake and had to pay the consequences. He knew he made a mistake, but that didn’t stop him from helping the team, he became a coach. He worked with the other forwards, he pushed the other players to work hard at practice. They repaid him by giving him one more game.”
As the top seed in the playoffs, the Stallions embrace the pressure that comes with it and look to harness that emotion into fuel for a deep playoff run.
“The boys definitely enjoy being number one. They love it,” coach Garcia said. “They know how hard they worked for it, it took a lot of dedication and commitment to believe in a system that they were not used to, and that is all we tell them. Remember how we got here and why we got here. They don’t only want to make history, they want to be legendary. That fire and belief that they can be great is the fuel that has gotten them here. And it’s a great feeling as a coach to know that everyone involved feels the same way.”
Madera South battled back after Fresno’s goal and it paid off 10 minutes later when the Stallions capitalized on a Warriors’ hand ball penalty in the box, resulting in a Stallions’ penalty kick.
Avila stepped up and dispatched a confident penalty kick. He fired the ball low into the corner, rendering the goalkeeper helpless to tie the score.
The Stallions came out of the break and looked ready for the final 40 minutes. Once again, the Vasquez pair came to the rescue.
David Vasquez seized a golden opportunity after the Stallions switched play from the right wing to the left. Vasquez collected the ball on the wing, dribbled around his opponent to create space before whipping a cross into the center of the penalty area.
Abraham Vasquez was camped there waiting for the ball. He sized up the cross before stabbing it home with a strong header.
The ball bounced past the Fresno goalkeeper and into the goal.
The Stallions hosted No. 4 Lemoore on Tuesday in Memorial Stadium at 6 p.m.