The funny thing about sports is that the best team does not always win. Take the 2016 Western boys soccer team.
It would be hard to find someone who believed Western was the best Class 3A team in the south coming into the playoffs. But the Warriors just kept winning, and became champion of the Southern Region.
The other funny thing about sports is that sometimes they reward the team that deserves to win.
Western looked like the better team from the opening whistle Friday, and two second-half goals propelled the Warriors to a 2-0 win over North Tahoe at Bettye Wilson Park in the Class 3A state semifinals.
“Good things don’t happen at Western very often,” coach Kory Pippen said. “That was the first thing I heard when I moved here. But to see us, as well as the girls about to play for the same thing, it’s just amazing.”
Western will look for its first state soccer title against Sparks (24-2-1) at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
The Warriors controlled Friday’s contest for nearly the full 80 minutes. The defense was superb, allowing just three shots on goal, and Jose Anaya stopped them all for his ninth shutout of the season. It just took until 63rd minute for that to translate to a lead.
It was then, shortly after the Warriors had a goal waved off because of offside for the second time, that Mauricio Muniz scored on a header off a pass from Ismael Navarro to give Western the lead.
Muniz had two goals all season.
“We were tied for so long, and when I scored I felt like I brought the team up,” Muniz said. “We all did it together and I felt like I needed it. That just hyped us up.”
Two minutes later, Western’s Juan Estrada saw a streaking Gustavo Sanchez and gave him a perfect pass. Sanchez bolted through two Lakers defenders and easily beat North Tahoe goalkeeper Koby Mattson for his third goal of the season.
“It just happened,” Sanchez said in disbelief. “I just hit it.”
Mattson turned away shot after shot in the first half to keep the game scoreless. But Western’s offense came through in the second half, earning the Warriors a berth in the title game.
“It’s just about finishing the job and that’s what the guys did,” Pippen said. “I think we’ve got a little bit left in the tank for 80 or 110 minutes or whatever it takes.”
Sparks 4, Chaparral 1 — Jose Pintor scored two first-half goals and the Railroaders topped the Cowboys in the other semifinal.
“This is about his fourth or fifth game where he comes in, he makes something happen for us,” Sparks coach Jose Espana-Jimenez said. “He continues to listen and I’m proud of him today.”
Chaparral opened the scoring when Ivan Topete blasted a shot from 20 yards out past Sparks goalkeeper Jose Cerritos in the fourth minute. From there, the Cowboys managed just two more shots, while Sparks picked up its intensity and controlled the tempo.
Pintor knocked in his first goal off Chaparral goalie Juan Romero in the 31st minute and followed that goal with another in the 35th minute, when he was in the right place at the right time for a close-range shot that scooted past Romero into the bottom-left corner.
“I’m really excited about my team being here at state, and it doesn’t matter who it is on this team, what player is better, when it comes down to the opportunity, we have to take our shot,” Pintor said. “I’m just happy for the whole team. This is a good thing for our program, and now we can focus on the championship game.”
Sparks dominated the first half, outshooting Chaparral, 16-4, with seven of those shots on goal.
Chaparral (16-9-2) had its chances in the second half, as it took eight shots, with four of them on goal. But the Railroaders got second-half goals from Bernardo Simental and Genaro Vazquez to put the game out of reach.