Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South’s Albert Vega is congratulated after scoring the first goal of the game in a 3-1 victory in Tuesday’s semifinal win against Lemoore.
Behind an inspired performance from sophomore Carlos Cardenas, who scored a goal and had two assists, the Madera South Stallions boys soccer team defeated the Lemoore Tigers, 3-1, in the Div III Central Section semifinals to book its place in the championship match at Memorial Stadium.
“The boys worked hard for this. All season and before they were out there working, running miles and everything that we put these boys through, they worked through it got to where we are today,” Madera South Enrique Garcia said.
Albert Vega and David Vasquez also got on the scoresheet as the pair tormented the Tiger’s backline all night.
The fourth-seeded Tigers ended the season with a 16-6-2 record and their ability on the pitch was not to be questioned. Top-seeded Madera South needed a lockpick to open up space for the others and Cardenas took the brunt of the load.
“We just went out there with a fire and we wanted to compete,” Cardenas said after a goal and two assists.
Like the previous match with Fresno, Vasquez came out with a burst of energy. His efforts, along with Cardenas, led to an early goal for the Stallions. Vasquez collected a low pass in the Lemoore penalty area before gaining possesion and sending the ball past the Tigers’ goalkeeper.
Vasquez almost had a second goal in the first half after senior midfielder Christian Garcia played him in from the heart of the final third. Garcia flicked a perfect pass into the path of Vasquez on the right wing before his touched failed him. His shot sent the ball too far in front, allowing the defender to clear the ball out.
Vasquez had another chance after Cardenas dribbled through two Tiger defenders before finding Garcia leading the break down the pitch.
Garcia found Vasquez on the right wing, once again, allowing Vasquez to challenge the keeper low with a driven shot. The ball bounced off the goalkeeper’s legs and up in the air before a Tiger defender cleared the ball.
Madera South was threatening the Tigers, but Lemoore’s ability to work the ball around the pitch was causing problems for the Stallions. Eventually, the Tigers stringed a few passes together and they were attacking the Stallions’ final third.
Chase Garcia equalized for the Tigers with a well-taken strike, low that beat Madera South goalkeeper Luis Segura by a slim margin. After the Tigers’ goal in the first half, Segura tightened up and kept his area clean.
Madera South’s reply came minutes later as Cardenas sent Vega loose with a long ball down the field that beat the Tiger defender. Vega’s speed propelled him past the defender just enough for him to get his shot off for the score. Madera South led 2-1 into halftime and never looked back.
After setting up two of his teammates, Cardenas was finally found the back of the net. In the opening minutes of the second half, Garcia found Cardenas making a run into the final third. Cardenas collected the pass and fired a low shot into the goal, effectively ending the game and sending the Stallions back to the Valley Championship.