Watsonville junior midfielder Oscar Rocha (12) drives past Pajaro Valley senior midfielder Eduardo Viorato (11) during their Monterey Bay League Gabilan division soccer game on Tuesday night at Emmett M. Geiser Field in Watsonville. -- Tony Nunez/Register-Pajaronian
WATSONVILLE — The Watsonville Wildcatz were in second to last place at the midway point of the Monterey Bay League Gabilan division season.
But they never gave up.
“We couldn’t,” said Watsonville senior midfielder Agustin Sorroza. “We knew we had it in us. We just needed to execute on the field.”
Sorroza scored during the eighth minute, freshman midfielder Julian Garcia added another in the 53rd and junior keeper Isaac Frias made six clutch stops to lead Watsonville to its fourth straight win, a 2-0 triumph over cross-city rival Pajaro Valley, on Tuesday night at Emmett M. Geiser Field.
With the win, Watsonville (10-6-3, 5-3-3) puts itself in position to take one of the all-important top three spots in the MBL-G that come with a guaranteed Central Coast Section playoff berth. Watsonville, an 11-time CCS champ and the section's defending Open Division co-champ, has not missed the postseason since 1976.
A win on Thursday in their regular season finale against San Benito, which stunned Watsonville earlier in the season, would land them in second place. It's a result that seemed nearly impossible last month, when the Wildcatz went more than two weeks without a win and had only one league victory through their first seven games.
“We’re feeling better now, obviously,” said Watsonville head coach Roland Hedgpeth. “We’re starting to come along.”
Pajaro Valley (6-10-2, 3-6-2) was eliminated from playoff consideration with the loss, which did not come by a lack of effort but by missed opportunities in front of the net.
The Grizzlies controlled the flow of the game and put loads of pressure on the Wildcatz with their through-the-middle, touch-touch style of play. Pajaro Valley had a trio of point-blank looks at goal in the first half but neither proved to be the score the Grizzlies needed to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
“We had possession, we had looks but you need goals to win,” said Pajaro Valley head coach Juan Roman. “Other than that I’m happy. Our guys gave it their best, their guys gave it their best and it’s two teams going in different directions."
This year will mark the Grizzlies' first playoff absence since the 2013-14 season. Pajaro Valley showed flashes of promise throughout the season but struggled to score during their final stretch in heartbreaking losses to San Benito and Alvarez.
"I think if we would've scored half of our chances we would be at the top of the league," Roman said. "It doesn't matter now. Misses don't count."
Garcia’s score seemed to have sealed the book on the Grizzlies’ season but just three minutes later they had new life. Watsonville sophomore defender Ricardo Alvarado received his second yellow card of the night while pulling down a Grizzly inside the box to set up a penalty kick.
Pajaro Valley star senior striker Alexis Rincon took the PK but was rejected by Frias, who dove to his right to keep the shutout intact and swing the momentum back Watsonville’s way.
It turned out to be enough to carry them through the final 15 minutes down a player.
“If they scored that PK, the momentum could’ve gone their way,” Frias said. “Who knows? they could’ve scored another one. I’m just glad I made the stop.”
It was just one of his half-dozen saves, which all came at big moments to keep Watsonville’s win streak rolling.
Ten minutes after Watsonville junior midfielder Erik Herrera found Sorroza with a beautiful cross for the game’s first score, Frias was called into action. The keeper used all of his 5-foot-8-inch frame to deflect Ivan Velasquez’s 35-yard free kick up and over the cross bar and a few seconds later Frias bailed out his defense again by catching Rincon’s blistering boot from 10 yards away.
Frias made another incredible stop 12 minutes into the second half, diving to his right and stopping Pajaro Valley senior Cristian Cisneros’ 25-yard free kick this time.
A minute later, Garcia knocked in Watsonville’s second score from 15 yards with a dribbling shot.
“[Frias] did an outstanding job tonight,” Hedgpeth said. “We were debating on which one to use tonight. He’s the younger guy but he helped us.”For the complete article see the 02-16-2017 issue.
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