The surface was wet. Their home field was unplayable. A red card was called with nine minutes left in the first half, but in the end, the Pitman Pride boys soccer team overcame many adversities to defeat Oak Ridge in penalty kicks, 5-4, to advance to the semifinals of the Division-I Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
“I agree with a penalty call, but not a red card, especially not that early in the game,” said Pitman head coach Brian Hofsteen. “It really put us in a hole early on playing a man down and took out a quality player and it was tough, but they overcame it. I told them to keep playing and plugging away and it worked out.”
Pitman is currently ranked No. 11 in California and No. 45 in the country.
Their overall record now stands at 19-2, making it arguably the most successful boys soccer team in program history.
“This is a special group, they are going to make something big happen. It is all them, so I cannot be any prouder of them at this point,” said Hofsteen.
To get to this point, they had to take on an Oak Ridge team that seems to be at the very least in the quarterfinal round of almost every sport in the postseason.
The suburban Sacramento school brought it and then some, playing with as many as six to seven defenders on a consistent basis.
It left for Pitman to apply pressure and attack when they could.
On several occasions they nearly put the ball in the back of the net, but then the post or a missed shot or opportunity would take any hope away.
Daniel Borges attempted a header after he received a cross from Luis Cordero at the 28th minute, but his shot sailed up just past the upper post.
Then with nine minutes left, the referee made a contentious call on a 50-50 opportunity and that left the Pride playing down a man for the remainder of the game.
Despite being undersized and down a player, Pitman continued to attack when they could on any counter, since it didn’t happen often, while the back-line anchored by goalkeeper Angel Ruiz did work.
Blake Carmona, Roy Gonzalez, and Luis Robles continued to clear and match every attack from Oak Ridge leading up to overtime at a 0-0 stalemate.
Pitman still saw their chances but couldn’t put anything away at the end of regulation.
In the first overtime, the unexpected happened.
With about two minutes left, OR capitalized on a rare error made by the defense as they put the ball in the back of the net.
Then, it took less than 30 seconds for Pitman to counter immediately after Luis Manriquez sprinted over 50 yards and put the ball in the back of the net, down a man.
OR was called for a red card in the final two minutes of the second overtime, but no stoppage was called and penalty kicks ensued.
It seemed like the penalty kicks went back and forth until Pitman went up 4-2.
Following an OR shot scored and a Pitman shot being saved, the Pride were up against the wall once again, tied at 4-4.
Pitman’s next shot was saved, while OR had two of the next three shots remaining.
Ruiz came up big with a save in the penultimate shot and Robles drilled his PK to put Pitman up 5-4, with one final shot remaining.
Again, the shot was aimed right, and again, Ruiz came away with back-to-back saves in PK to send his squad into the semifinal round against a powerful No. 3 Jesuit squad.
“Obviously everyone was nervous — I was nervous — but I have a lot of confidence in Angel (GK), and I knew he was going to do it, so it was great,” said Hofsteen. “Also, our back line did so much heart back there, they trust each other and I had full confidence in them all game if they just play how they can.”
The next game for Pitman will be the semifinal as they host No. 3 Jesuit at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed with the weather and get that home field. We will just have to play our game and play hard,” Hofsteen added. “It is tough with a break but they will come out and practice.”