Weston Ranch always seemed find a way to wriggle out of dire situations all season, but on Thursday that moment never arrived for the fourth-seeded Cougars in their Sac-Joaquin Section Division III quarterfinal loss to Wood.
The No. 12 Wildcats of Vacaville held on for the 1-0 win that was as exhilarating for them as it was excruciating for the Weston Ranch players who dropped to the turf in disbelief after missing their two best chances in the final sequence of the match.
“We would still be playing right now, maybe celebrating — who knows?” Cougars forward Elvin Bolanos said. “I hate to end my senior season like that.”
The action was back-and-forth throughout and intensified in the second half, but it was in the later stages when the Valley Oak League champions did their best work. The ending encapsulated how the match played out for Weston Ranch (12-2-6).
It was in the sixth and final minute of stoppage time when Kevin Urrutia Hernandez won the ball on a throw-in dished it ahead to an open Jesus Vega on the right wing. Vega cut back toward the middle of the field and delivered a left-footed cross to Bolanos, whose head shot bounced hard off the left post.
Aaron Silva was in position to follow up for an uncontested shot, but he slipped while winding up for the lefty try. Wood midfielder Kobe Rolling — who assisted the lone goal of the night — sent the ball away from the penalty box, and the referee blew the final whistle.
“We had a couple of really, really good chances, chances that may go in in another game,” Weston Ranch coach Francisco Cisneros said. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way. For whatever reason, it was their night and we just have to accept it. We can’t control the result, but we can control the effort we put in and we gave it our all tonight.”
Max Mendoza’s one-touch goal during the 25th minute was the difference, capitalizing on Rolling’s low cross from the right wing.
Both teams produced scoring chances all game, with Weston Ranch getting the edge on shots (14-11) and corner kicks (6-1). Wood, which attacked mostly with long balls, was caught offside seven times.
Hernandez nearly got the elusive equalizer for the Cougars in the 59th minute; hitting the crossbar with a volley from the top of the 18 on Armando Garcia’s lobbed through ball.
Weston Ranch also missed high on several direct kicks, and there were dangerous crosses into the goal box that were just out of reach for the intended targets.
“We had opportunities to score and so did they,” Wood coach Jorge Ruiz Chavez said. “It was an intense game. This was two evenly-matched teams that play the same style and that’s always harder than playing someone with a conflicting style.”
Wood advances to the semifinal round of the first time and heads to top-seeded Galt (21-1-1). The Wildcats also upset No. 5 Johansen in the opening round, 1-0.
“This is probably the toughest loss I’ve ever experienced as a coach, not because we lost, but these I thought deserved more than the ending we had today,” Cisneros said. “We’ve lost playoff games before, but this group was special. There was no way in my mind I thought this was going to be our last playoff game. I thought we could make a run to the end.”