Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South’s Daniel Maciel gets a kick off during Tuesday’s CIF State playoff game. Maciel scored the insurance goal in a 2-0 victory over Ceres.
With a Valley Championship under its belt and a new-found boost in their step, the Madera South Stallions boys soccer team opened the CIF Northern California Regional Boys Soccer Championships with a decisive victory over the Ceres Bulldogs at Memorial Stadium.
“That team was strong and physical. They played their game and, luckily, our defense did their job in stopping their best player throughout the match,” Garcia said. “He was a tremendous player, but we were able to hold him down.”
The Bulldogs came into Tuesdays match with a single loss during the season. However, they didn’t realize that the Stallions were battle-tested and eager to extend their magical season.
Ceres opened the match with an early chance against back-up goalkeeper Ishmal Ambriz. With Valley Championship goalkeeper Luis Segura out with injury, Madera South’s back-up stopper stepped up and showed the depth Madera South can operate with after seven successful saves.
“Luis is hurt,” Garcia said. “He pulled his bicep in the Valley Championship match. We had our sophomore junior-varsity goalkeeper step up to the plate and we knew he had the capabilities to play with us earlier in the season, but we wanted him to develop down there so he would be ready for a moment like this.”
The Bulldogs found space at the top of the box, before sending a shot on goal towards Ambriz, however, the goalkeeper collected the ball comfortably.
Christian Garcia provided the best chance for Madera South in the second half after a free kick from 25 yards out nearly found its target. Garcia took his time, before slamming the ball low past the wall, but directly at the Bulldog goalkeeper.
The Ceres goalkeeper blocked the ball low to his left, almost spilling the ball back into the penalty area where Madera South was ready to pounce on the ball and score.
Madera South and Ceres entered the break scoreless, but things changed early after the whistle.
Garcia opened the scoring early in the second half after a mistake by the Ceres goalkeeper.
Garcia continued to pressure the Ceres backline, before chasing a ball back to their goalkeeper. The goalkeeper felt Garcia’s pressure and fumbled the ball, allowing Garcia to tap the ball in from a few yards out to take a 1-0 lead. That goal launched Madera South forward in the second half.
“We started to click in the second half,” coach Garcia said after their opening goal. “After the goal came, we started to get more momentum going forward and when the second goal came, we started to press high and the team locked it down for us.”
That second goal came courtesy of Albert Vega. Vega dribbled into the box, danced around his opponent and whipped a dangerous cross across the face of goal where Daniel Maciel was waiting. Maciel connected with the ball and fired it passed the Bulldog goalkeeper to take a 2-0 lead.
Despite already winning the Div. III Valley Championship only days before, the Stallions mindset is still focused on what they can accomplish. No matter what happens, their focus and determination is resolute.
“After the first soccer championship in school history for Madera South, it’s not easy, Garcia said. “There was a little talk, the boys were saying we want to perform at home, and we don’t lose at home. We had Luis getting hurt and he’s been there all year for us, so we just want to give him another game and same goes for Uriel Herrera who had some knee issues before the game, and he had to sit. The boys stepped up and gave us one more game.”