EL DORADO — With both feet through the postseason door and its ticket stamped for a first-round opponent next week, Union Mine High’s soccer squad hoped to finish the regular season on a positive note Tuesday — no small task considering its opponent was Sierra Valley Conference league-leader Vista Del Lago.
Over the entire 80 minutes, the Diamondbacks stood toe-to-toe with the Eagles on Senior Night and gave the visiting team from Folsom all it could handle. But even as the D’backs played with tremendous intensity and energy, they couldn’t overcame some tough breaks and eventually went down to a 4-2 defeat despite a gallant effort all the way to the end.
“Our guys played tough and never gave up tonight,” Union Mine coach Chris Herrman said. “The seniors played well in their final home game and displayed tremendous leadership. I am just really proud of the team and what they have accomplished this year.”
While the loss was disappointing, nothing could take away from the fact the Diamondbacks’ season is not over just yet. After the Sierra Valley Conference realigned into Division IV, the D’backs were able to compete on a level playing field and the result was a hard-fought third place and a berth in the playoffs for the first time in many years.
From the start of Monday’s game, the home town team from El Dorado proved it would not be intimidated. Every pass was challenged as each team struggled to seize control of the match. With solid all-around play from Eric Hopwood, Kyle Listar, Eric Saich, Steve Haugaard, Dan Saich, Eriberto Corona, Cesar Rodriguez, Carl Hughes and Esteban Gonzalez, Union Mine played strong defense which resulted in attacks and opportunities for shots on goal.
About 25 minutes in, the Eagles took some momentum when a Vista shot eluded keeper Issac Williams and rolled into the Union Mine net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. The deficit grew to 2-0 and the D’backs went into halftime trailing despite an outstanding effort over the first 40 minutes of the match.
Behind tremendous resolve, Union Mine took control early in the second half with pressure and great passing to create many opportunities. One of those was a pass from Listar to Rodriquez, who dribbled past a defender and crushed a shot into the Vista net to narrow the gap to 2-1. The celebration was short-lived as the Eagles answered twice for a 4-1 advantage with 15 minutes left. Showing no quit, Rodriguez added another goal to bring Union Mine closer at 4-2 but that was all the D’backs could muster.
“We gave a fight tonight and just stayed focused the entire match,” Corona said. “I want to say congratulations to our whole team for working hard to make the playoffs and to Cesar Rodriguez for two goals on senior night.”
Monday marked the final regular season home appearance for Listar, Rodriguez, Dan Saich, Hopwood, Keldan Hepworth, Kyle Lee and Eduardo Aguilar.
The D’backs now turn their attention to the playoffs and an opening round match on Nov. 4.