Outstanding efforts from the goalies kept this Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV boys soccer playoff opener from erupting into a high-scoring affair at Sierra High’s Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium on Tuesday.
Thanks to Pedro Maciel’s two second-half goals, the sixth-seeded Timberwolves did enough on the attacking third to prevail 2-1 over No. 11 Lindhurst. Maciel’s go-ahead goals were scored in the 14th and 34th minutes, and it was up to the make-shift defense and freshman Saul Aguiniga to hold off the dangerous Blazers (9-7-2) from Olivehurst.
“It was very important to start strong and play our game,” Maciel said. “They have a great goalie. The game could have been way different if they had a different goalie.”
Maciel was denied a hat trick in the 76th minute when Lindhurst keeper Abraham Juarez blocked his short-range attempt on a breakaway. Juarez finished with six saves.
Eddie Aguilar, Sierra’s leading scorer with 37 goals for the season, had one early miss carom off the right post, and he too was stuffed by Juarez on a late 1-on-1 opportunity. Sierra outshot Lindhurst 18-9, and though the Blazers had just one attempt in the second half they managed to out-possess the Timberwolves (16-8-2).
Fabian Lopez teed up Maciel’s first goal with a long throw-in, but Maciel’s initial shot was deflected by Juarez. With Lindhurst’s goalie out of position, Maciel was able to finish the play for the 1-0 lead.
Lindhurst tied it in the 31st minute when Jeffrey Ubias drove it to the back of the net off the bounce after Joshua Usvat’s indirect kick.
Maciel pushed Sierra ahead for good minutes later. Aguilar sent him a long through ball that was misplayed by a Lindhurst defender, allowing Maciel to sneak behind the back line for a routine 1-on-1 chance.
“We kept them in the game too long,” Sierra coach Joe Pires said. “We had so many opportunities but their keeper made some tremendous saves. Give them credit, they had some opportunities too, but overall their keeper was their key player.”
Aguiniga also shined. Lindhurst nearly jumped ahead just 3 minutes in when Enrique Ambracio set up Alejandro Barajas with a perfect cross, but Aguiniga was there to deflect point-blank shot. He later came up with three more saves in a 10-minute span in the middle of the first half.
“He’s had some letdowns, he’s a freshman, but he’s had some key moments for us this season and today was one of them,” Pires said. “He came up big three or four times today.”
Pires also credited the defense, which was without standout stopper Jonathan Vargas (sprained ankle). Eriq Kurys was moved from his midfield position to help solidify the defense.
“We played a team we know nothing about and it turns out they have a lot of speed,” Pires said. “We did a pretty good job despite the movements we made (with the lineup).”
The win advances the Timberwolves to a quarterfinal showdown with No. 3 Livingston on the road. Livingston (13-5-2), the Western Athletic Conference champion, previously defeated Sierra 1-0 in the Pitman Tournament back on Aug. 29.
“We are a different team than we were at the beginning of the season,” Pires said. “I remember them being a big team, a very good passing team. I’m sure that, unless they had some key injuries, they probably are much better now. We have to play our ‘A’ game to have a chance.”