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Yellowjackets prevail in penalties to advance to NorCal final
Hilmar girls soccer 1
Hilmar sophomore Sidney Logsdon is mobbed by teammates after scoring the Yellowjackets’ fifth penalty kick to beat Reedley’s University Prep 0-0 (5-4) in the semifinal round of the Division 5 CIF NorCal Regional playoffs on Thursday afternoon (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

All 80 minutes of regulation and a 15-minute sudden-death overtime was not enough for either Hilmar High or University Prep (Reedley) to net a goal on Thursday afternoon in the semifinal round of the Division 5 CIF NorCal Regional girls soccer playoffs. 

At the end of overtime, players from both teams limped to their respective sidelines to prepare for penalty kicks. Some immediately hit the ground, staring blankly into the distance. Others doused themselves with water. A few broke down in tears. Several even locked hands to pray. And in the end, it was the Yellowjackets who outscored the Panthers 5-4 in penalties to advance to Saturday’s championship game.

Tasked with delivering the five kicks for Hilmar were Raylynn Mendoza, Alyssa Colston, Finley Rosa, Brisa Gonzales and Sidney Logsdon. The lone miss from the Panthers came in their second attempt when Ava Ranker sailed her strike over the crossbar, setting up Logsdon with a potential game-winner in the fifth and final round of penalties. Logsdon chose to fire the strike just left of goalkeeper Kiera Sheffield, who ended up diving left. The celebration was on, with Logsdon throwing her hands up and turning to embrace her teammates at midfield.

“I just started screaming,” the sophomore midfielder said. “I couldn’t believe what I just did. I still can’t. I feel like she (Sheffield) kept leaning to the right. That, and she wasn't really centered in the box, so I just went in the clear open space and I made it.”

Hilmar girls soccer 2
Sophomore Mikayla Arteaga of Hilmar High dribbles through University Prep defenders in the Yellowjackets’ 0-0 (5-4) win over University Prep on Thursday afternoon in the semifinal round of the Division 6 CIF NorCal Regional playoffs (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Logsdon described her game-winning kick as “revenge.” In the ninth minute of overtime, she fired the ball into the back of the net that led those in attendance to momentarily believe the game was over. Joyous cheers quickly turned into boos as the score was negated due to Logsdon being called for a hand ball infarction.

“They called a hand ball, but it wasn’t a hand ball,” Logsdon said. “I just had lots of emotions going through me. I wanted to get that one back, so when I had the opportunity to win it in PKs, I just wanted to make it so bad for my team, our families  and for everybody in our community. We've worked so hard for this.”

The Lady ‘Jackets also had an opportunity to score in the 42nd minute of regulation when a hand ball was called on a University Prep player standing inside the penalty box. Gonzales —  Hilmar’s leading scorer with 30 goals on the season — was elected to take the kick, which was then saved by Sheffield. It was Gonzales’ first missed penalty attempt of the year.

“After she blocked Brisa’s shot, I knew we had our hands full with that goalie. She is a great player,” said head coach Guy Bettencourt.

“But I'm proud of both of how the girls responded after both of those incidents,” he added, referring to the blocked penalty and the hand ball call. “They could have easily gotten down on themselves, but they kept on fighting. They could have just folded and they kept on fighting and fighting.”

Bettencourt also believes that the game would not have reached overtime or penalty kicks if not for the play of his own goalkeeper, Kayden Elston. She made diving saves in the 31st and 77th minutes of regulation. In the 11th minute of overtime, she made another.

“I was so nervous that entire game,” Elston admitted. “But I just got it together in my head. I told myself, ‘I need to do this for my team.’ It was a really close game the whole time, and if they scored, we might not have been able to get back up. I had to block the balls no matter what. My heart was beating so fast, I started crying like three different times.”

Bettencourt, who joked after the match that his heart almost popped out of his chest as time winded down and as penalties were being kicked, praised the effort put forward by Elston.

“It was a lot to handle, but she has been nails all season,” he said. “We really aren’t here in this position if it weren’t for her. We don’t win league, win the (Division 5 Sac-Joaquin) Section or make it deep in the regionals if not for Kayden. I’m so proud of her. She puts in a lot of work.”

The Yellowjackets, the top seed in the D-5 bracket, improved their overall record to 24-5-2. They will host No. 6 Winters at 3 p.m. in Saturday’s title match. The Warriors are 18-4 on the season and are the Division 3 champions of the North Coast Section.

“This team we just played is really good. They are fantastic. And it said a lot about our team since they’re a Division 2 school,” Bettencourt said of the fourth-seeded Panthers. “I’m proud of them because they’ve already made history. They impress me every game, so Saturday should be fun.”

“This team has been killing it since the beginning,” added assistant coach and Hilmar High alumna Betzy Chavez. “We were rocky at the beginning, but we got it together. They’re a true team. They play great together. They respect each other. They love each other. And that's all you need… We had never played 30 games in a season as a program until this year. We just got through 31, and now we have one more. We're not done yet. We wanted 32 games, we got 32 games.”