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San Luis to face No. 2 Corona del Sol
There were oddities on and off the field Wednesday when No. 10 San Luis defeated Phoenix-Alhambra in the first round of the AIA state playoffs.
San Luis' day started with a broken bus, leaving the Sidewinders stranded outside of Arizona Western College. Fortunately they had left earlier than anticipated, but still arrived at the field in Phoenix with only 20 minutes to spare.
“We didn't get a lot of time to watch, which might have been a good thing,” said San Luis coach Ian McDougall. “When you've never played someone before and you're lining up against them and you start to check them out, you start to get those butterflies and nerves. We got off the bus, got on the field and started playing. There was no time for nerves, and maybe that played to our advantage. I really think it did.”
Within the first two minutes of the game, the Sidewinders were gifted a goal early when an Alhambra defender passed the ball back to his goal keeper who whiffed on the clearing attempt, then watched in horror as the ball slowly trickled in to his own goal.
“I just knew this goal keeper was nervous, you could see it in warm ups,” McDougall said. “Maybe two minutes into the game their defender made a simple back pass. Our forwards weren't even pressuring him, and he just panicked.”
Both teams battled for possession in the next 20 minutes until Marlon Atondo lifted a ball into the penalty box. The goalie made the save, but then dropped it, allowing Javier Espinoza, San Luis' former goalie and current back up, to walk it in for an easy score.
“For Javier being a goal keeper, his instinct for balls that drop are impeccable,” McDougall said. “He just touched it off to the side and dribbled into the goal, all by himself. It was a ball that everyone on the field, including the Alhambra players, thought, ‘Oh my goal keeper's just going to grab this.' So everyone on the field just stopped except Javier.”
Being up 2-0 didn't last long with Alhambra scoring 17 seconds later and then coming out in the second half guns a-blazing. With 25 minutes left in the game, San Luis found themselves at a 3-2 disadvantage.
“Once they scored their third goal, the whole rest of the game was played on their half of the field,” McDougall said. “We absolutely dominated possession.”
Richard Hernandez took advantage of that possession, knocking in the tying goal off an assist by Ivan Fimbres. The goal was Hernandez's first of the season.
“It was exciting,” Hernandez said. “I don't really remember anything, I just remember the ball going into the goal and I was like, ‘Whoa, 3-3.”
Andres Elizalde capped the evening off with the game-winning goal off an assist from Leo Moreno.
“It feels good because we haven't been past the first round in three years,” Elizalde said. “It feels good to see what we can do in the state playoffs.”
The Sidewinders play at 2 p.m. today at No. 2 Corona del Sol.
“Corona del Sol's a beatable team and if we go out and play our game, it'll be competitive,” McDougall said. “Either team could come out victorious. When we've had our biggest games of the year and the kids are really passionate, we have played well.”