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Bears bounce RedHawks from soccer playoffs
A defensive battle between perennial Northern Section Division III power Colusa High and up-and-coming Pierce turned in the Bears' favor on a fluky bounce and a heads-up play in the 65th minute.
After watching her shot sail wide but stay inbounds, Bears senior forward Erica Granados hustled to the ball and set up an open look for freshman Giselle Vera, whose blast ricocheted off the top bar.
Granados scrambled from the end line and tapped the ball just inches over the goal line before Colusa goalkeeper Jen Pulido pulled it back. After a conference between the referees, they determined the goal counted.
Before the RedHawks could recover, Granados added an insurance goal with a no-doubt blast from the left side in the 68th minute.
When all was said and done, the Bears ended the RedHawks' season with a 2-0 victory on Thursday in Arbuckle and earned a trip to Redding and faced defending section champion and No. 1 seed University Prep on Tuesday.
Pierce (9-4-3) entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed after putting up its first winning season in nine years. The Bears went 5-3-1 and finished second in the Sacramento Valley League behind Willows.
"We've just come together as a team. It was our best year as far as girls getting along, playing well, being willing to work, showing up to practice and wanting to win," Pierce coach Duffy Bailey said.
The Bears have four senior starters, including Granados and goalkeeper Brenda Leos, who has six shutouts this year and made three saves against the RedHawks. The other two starting seniors are sweeper Stephanie Villagomez and midfielder Melissa Martinez, who played key roles in stifling Colusa's offense.
With the small group of senior leaders this season, the Bears are laying the foundation for years to come. The team's turnaround began last season when a strong class of freshman starters gained experience in many close, low-scoring matches. This year, another strong class of freshmen came in and Pierce is primed for long-term success, Bailey said.
"I thought we played fabulously and I thought they played well, it was a very good game," he said. "Colusa is always a solid program and they pass the ball well."
Like the Bears, the RedHawks have just four senior starters — Pulido, defender Coral Imhoff, and forwards Bianca Meza and Valeria Dominguez — and a young roster.
Colusa (6-8-4) labored through its first losing season in more than a decade and entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed. The RedHawks' struggles were in part due to fielding a team with four or five freshmen starting each game, yet still finished second in the Mid-Valley League with a 3-2-4 record.
The RedHawks proved they are still a force to be reckoned with on Thursday, and even had a chance to take the lead late in the first half on a play eerily similar to Granados' first goal.
Imhoff slipped a perfectly placed corner kick between the entire defense and the near post but the ball rolled along the goal line and careened around in the 6-yard box before being cleared by the Pierce defense.
"The girls were saying it was a foot over the line, and they were saying (Granado's goal) was a foot over the line too," Colusa coach Darren Brown said.
Ultimately, Granados made it a moot point with her second goal and the Bears defense held possession of the ball and prevented the RedHawks from having a single clear shot on goal the rest of the way.
Pierce controlled possession for much of the game and kept the RedHawks leading goal scorers, Dominguez and Sammy Espindola, from getting the ball near the goal. The RedHawks defense also did a good job of keeping the ball out of their end of the field and Pulido need to make just six saves.
"We knew it was going to be one of those years where we had to learn on the spot. They were going to have to grow up quickly, and they did, we played 65 minutes of really, really good soccer and it was one crazy weird goal that did it for us," Brown said.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 749-4789