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Crushing loss for Live Oak
Dominating regular season ends in disappointing fashion
The match was over, and all they could do was sit on the sidelines and stare off in disbelief.
There was no way to explain how it all slipped away — especially in the final game of the regular season.
With a chance to sew up the Sacramento Valley League One title with a win or a draw, the Live Oak High boys soccer team watched its dream of taking home a banner go up in smoke Thursday with a tough 2-1 loss to visiting Durham.
It was the second setback in as many games for the Lions, who wrapped up the regular season with an impressive 16-3-1 record overall while going 6-2 in league play.
However, due to the loss, Willows leap-frogged the Lions and claimed the league title outright.
"A two-game losing streak definitely doesn't help the psyche," Live Oak coach Mike Owen said. "If this was the end of the season I'd be disappointed, but we still have a home playoff game so we'll see what happens."
Both teams had several near misses in the first half before Durham took the lead in the 38th minute when Eric Mojica received a through ball from Toby Auer and banged the ball in off the right post for the game's first goal.
The Trojans (6-6-4, 5-2-1) added to their lead just one minute into the second half when Mojica delivered on a free kick from 20 yards out, putting Live Oak in a hole.
The Lions wouldn't lay down though and answered back just minutes later when standout striker Hector Cibrian was taken down in the box by the Durham keeper. The senior then delivered by driving home the penalty kick for his 37th goal of the season and Live Oak was back in the match.
The Lions eventually went on to outshoot the Trojans 10-3 in the second half, but couldn't find the equalizer despite getting two corner kicks in the final seconds.
"That's the way it goes sometimes," said Owen, who praised the defensive and midfield play of Jose Alvarado, Ismael Esparza, Ricardo Silva, Victor Ziranda and Joel Cibrian. "We had a few chances, unfortunately we couldn't capitalize. That's been the status quo the last couple games."
Despite the loss, Live Oak should still host a first-round game when the Northern Section Division II playoffs begin on Thursday, according to Owen.
Orland and Winters are penciled in as the top two seeds, while Willows and Live Oak should stay as the No. 3 and 4 seeds, respectively.
"We know we still have games to play so we can either dwell on it or come mentally prepared for the playoffs," Owen said.