For the first time since 2008, the Hilmar High varsity girls soccer team is back in the Division-V Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game after they defeated No. 5 Venture Academy in a dramatic penalty shootout that ended in a 6-5 victory.
“We came into this match ready to play,” Hilmar head coach Doug Delay said.
Despite the Yellowjackets’ success, Delay said there were more than half a dozen opportunities, but Hilmar failed to convert in regulation and overtime included.
Some shots were saved, while others sailed away from the back of the net and out of play.
“When we did strike the ball well, give credit to their keeper, she made some great saves and they are a very well-organized team,” said Delay. “Very fast on both ends of the pitch and they tested us today and the game might have put additional pressure on our ladies, that goes without saying, but it wasn’t one of our better games to be honest, we kept digging.”
Digging could be an understatement.
The winds reached a peak of nearly 30 miles per hour during the game and stayed steady in the 20s, proving difficult to control the ball.
Hilmar still almost found the back of the net after just eight minutes, but couldn’t capitalize and close it out.
Freshman Judith King of Hilmar continued to make runs on the outside from the first half till the final whistle, working her way around the defenders with speed.
King struck the ball about 30 minutes in, but it failed to hit the back of the net and both sides went into halftime scoreless at 0-0.
JuliAnn Machado saw a few close ones slip away, including one in regulation where she nearly assisted Emily Vieira off a free kick from about 24 yards away. Vieira drilled the shot but it was saved once more.
The stalemate remained intact after 80 minutes of action and the game resulted in overtime.
In the first half of overtime, it took just two minutes for Hilmar to create a chance—one of many—but Machado was unable to finish a one-on-one situation. She drilled the first shot but it was saved and the ricochet allowed her to strike once again but it didn’t go in as it sailed away.
King then saw an opportunity open up with less than five minutes remaining after she sprinted into the penalty area then took a shot from 14 yards out, but it struck the side of the net.
In the second half of overtime, Machado saw multiple one-on-one’s slip away from her as she failed to capitalize on the opportunities.
Most notably was the final chance with one-minute remaining, she made her way inside near the goalie’s box and from about 10 yards she struck the ball too hard and it sailed over the top post.
Nothing went in during overtime as well and the 0-0 game carried into penalty kicks.
“My first thought going to penalty kicks was it’s 50-50. At that point its not really a reflection of what your team is all about. We do practice every week, I mean every week we practice PKs,” said Delay. “So, it’s not something we are unfamiliar with. We won the Ripon Christian tournament on PKs over Ripon, so we had some experience this year.”
When PKs started, the dramatic setting only grew after the entire stands cleared and everyone made their way to the side of the field, standing from beginning till the end.
The first round was effective as Hilmar went up with the first make from Machado and goalkeeper Mikayla Schmidt made a crucial first save to make it 1-0.
From there it was a blur of back and forth shots, misses and saves.
Eventually, after the seventh penalty shots were taken, the score read 5-5.
From there it was sudden death.
Schmidt was up next to take a shot and she did, but missed it after striking the ball too hard and it sailing up and away.
Fortunately for Hilmar, VA missed their next shot and the score read 5-5 heading into the ninth try.
King then hit the eventual game-winning strike to the bottom left corner and VA missed their final attempt, giving the Yellowjackets the 6-5 win.
“As a fan if PKs, if it doesn’t get your heart rate going I don’t know what does,” said Delay. “As a true soccer enthusiast as I am, I never want to see it go to PKs, for both sides, whether I am on the winning or losing end.”
Hilmar was held scoreless during regulation for the first time this season since tying Ripon back on Feb. 5., 0-0.
The Yellowjackets record heading into the Section final stands at 20-1-6.
“I am just so proud of the girls, I mean it’s awesome. No other way to describe it,” said Delay. “All the hours that are put in during preseason and all long hours, just so happy for them and proud of their effort and regardless what happens next week… we will go for the win, but we are happy to be here.”
They will square off against No. 2 Ripon at a time and place yet to be determined on Thursday.