When a team gets behind early, coaches typically see one of two routes transpire: One is a sense of urgency and the other a feeling of despair.
For Lindhurst High boys soccer coach Juan Aguilar, his top-ranked Blazers’ squad played hard and with urgency most of the night, but were ultimately upset by No. 4 seeded El Dorado, 1-0 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinals Tuesday night in Olivehurst.
“They kept playing hard and we had our chances,” Aguilar said. “It seemed like it was one of those nights where the ball didn’t want to go in.”
El Dorado (19-3-4) advances to play third-seeded Natomas – a 3-2 double overtime winner over Livingston in the other semifinal – in the D-IV championship at
6 p.m. Saturday in Natomas.
Lindhurst finishes the season 20-2 overall and Pioneer Valley League champions.
Lindhurst got behind about five minutes into Tuesday’s semifinal after sophomore Fredy Hernandez scored the game’s lone goal and eventual game-winner on a scrum-type effort in the box, essentially square up with the goalkeeper.
The shot would eventually slide into the net for the 1-0 El Dorado advantage.
Lindhurst kept fighting, despite losing one of its top goal-scorers mid first half to an injury. Still the hosts had multiple scoring chances through the first 40 minutes, including a header attempt from Carlos Camarena that waved by the goal, and a dribble-drive shot from Diego Martinez which also sailed wide.
Both attempts were around the goalie box and were solid opportunities that El Dorado turned away to go into the break in front 1-0.
Lindhurst received many more chances in the second half, thanks to a kick-and run set approach that Aguilar said worked well for Lindhurst through the regular season.
Junior Jaime Hernandez, the team’s left wing and league MVP, had multiple shots on goal from about the 53rd minute through the rest of the game.
One of the attempts by Hernandez hit the crossbar at about the 62nd minute to come up empty.
Lindhurst was inches away from equalizing, but still trailed 1-0 with about 18 minutes left in regulation.
“I’m proud of my team, we fought till the end,” Aguilar said.
Erick Ferreira delivered a 40-yard line drive of an attempt that reached the goalie on the fly, but was successfully corralled for a save by El Dorado.
Ferreira, part of the Lindhurst backline that included Francisco Mora and several others, kept Lindhurst only a goal down with a couple successful stops in the box late in the game.
Aguilar said his defense was the best in the PVL with only eight goals scored against the unit all year.
He knew Lindhurst would be right there up to the final minute.
Aguilar said any season-ending loss stings in the short-term, but it’s the highpoints that win out eventually.
“We were one game away from the championship and I told them not to take that for granted,” he said. “We earned (it).”
Lindhurst was riding a 15-game winning streak heading into Tuesday. One of the victories was against Pleasant Valley, a perennial power out of Chico and this year’s Division I Northern Section runner-up.
Aguilar said Lindhurst has plenty to be proud of this season.