Western’s Christian Macias saw a near-perfect cross coming his way on Thursday, and the senior midfielder knew he had to make a play.
Macias was first to the ball, and his header sneaked inside the right post in the final minute of the second overtime to give the Warriors a 1-0 win over Del Sol in the Class 3A Southern Region boys soccer semifinals at Bettye Wilson Park.
“I just saw a great cross from Leo (Acosta-Treviso),” Macias said. “I saw the ball going right towards me. I saw the defender going to it, and I just had to get there faster than him. I just put a head there before he did, and look what we got, a goal.”
The win put the Warriors (15-6-2) into the region title game at 10 a.m. on Saturday against Chaparral (16-7-2). Both teams earned a berth at next week’s state tournament.
Leonel Acosta-Treviso started the play with a long free kick from the left side. His service set up Macias, who made sure the game didn’t end up being decided in a shootout.
“If that ball didn’t go in by head, it might have gone in in general,” Western coach Kory Pippin said. “It was a great ball.”
It was the second double-overtime win of the tournament for the Warriors, who played a man down for most of Tuesday’s quarterfinal win over Tech. They then came back to hand the Dragons (13-1-2) their first loss.
“To come back from that with one day rest and play 110 more minutes, I would love to say that I did something but I didn’t,” Pippin said. “That’s heart. That’s what the kids have put in, and a testament to their parents and who they raised.”
Western goalkeeper Jose Anaya made four saves to earn his second postseason shutout. But more important than the saves was Anaya’s aggressive play coming off his line to thwart Del Sol’s offensive opportunities.
“To have a senior keeper that can command the field and everybody has confidence in what he does and can rise to the occasion in the toughest of moments, the most challenging of moments … just says that you’ve got to have some kind of grit,” Pippin said of Anaya. “how he was playing today and on Tuesday is the embodiment of our team right now.”
Anaya’s aggressiveness nearly cost him in the game’s 44th minute when he left the penalty area to challenge Del Sol’s Diego Nieves. Nieves was able to control the ball and take it to the corner where he passed to teammate Sergio Calderon. Calderon slipped the ball to Erik Serrano, who tried to score before Anaya got back in position. But a Western defender was able to clear the ball from the goal line to preserve the shutout.
That allowed the Warriors to pull off a last-second winner, to earn a berth at state.
“We decided to give it our all out there in the last two minutes of the game,” Macias said. “And we got a foul and we got a header in the goal, and that’s all that matters.”
Chaparral 3, Sunrise Mountain 2 — Leo Gutierrez scored on a header in the 12th minute of overtime to give the Cowboys the win over the Miners in the other semifinal.
Omar Miranda crossed the ball from the right side, and Gutierrez put the header inside the right post for the win. It was the first loss of the season for Sunrise Mountain (15-1).
Chaparral was in control early, scoring two goals in the game’s first 11 minutes to take a 2-0 advantage at the break. The Cowboys were the clear aggressor’s early, and took advantage of an own goal in the 7th minute. Ramiro Alvarado took a corner kick from Ivan Topete four minutes later, and his right-footed shot beat the keeper for a 2-0 advantage.
But Sunrise Mountain, which was ranked No. 1 in the final coaches poll, came to life and controlled the ball for most of the second half. Musio Jimenez-Vazquez scored in the 56th minute to cut the lead to 2-1, and the Miners tied the game on a goal by Jose Arreola with three minutes left in regulation.
“In the second half we were really missing out, and then we just came back because we believed in ourselves that we could take the state title,” Gutierrez said.