SOLEDAD — After winning two straight playoff games to get to the Central Coast Section (CCS) Division IV Finals, the Soledad Aztecs varsity girls’ soccer team lost to the Hollister Haybalers in overtime 4-3, ending their season.
The Lady Aztecs might not have accomplished their goal of winning a league title, but they still received the chance of claiming a CCS title in girls’ soccer.
Soledad High has only one sports team that claimed a CCS title in school history, which came back in 2016-17 when the football team beat Westmount.
To claim their own CCS title, the Lady Aztecs had to win three playoff games.
In their first playoff, they had a tough day against a team they had already beaten this season — the Alisal Trojans. The first time these teams faced off was back on Dec. 13, when the Lady Aztecs won 1-0.
In their second matchup, Alisal pushed Soledad and forced them to come back from a 2-1 deficit. The Aztecs scored two goals from standout player Sophia Martel in order to beat the Lady Trojans in overtime, 3-2.
Just like last season, Martel has led the Pacific Coast Athletic League in goals with 37.
In their second playoff, the Lady Aztecs faced off against their division opponent, the Carmel Padres. During the season, they were able to split the season series, with each winning on their home field.
In the third matchup against the Padres, Soledad dominated from the moment they kicked off.
With Aztec player Giselle Zepeda’s two goals in the first half, Soledad cruised to a 4-0 win and clinched a spot in the CCS finals for the first time in school history.
In the final playoff on Feb. 25, Soledad had to compete against the Hollister Haybalers. To begin the game, the Haybalers struck in the first 10 minutes of the match, giving them an early lead.
In the first half, the Lady Aztecs were outplayed and got very few opportunities to score a goal. The Lady Haybalers were the more physical team throughout the match, and the Lady Aztecs trailed at the half, 2-0.
At the beginning of the second half, Soledad still had a hard time getting anything going until they had a chance to get their first goal when the ref called a handball in the box, giving the Lady Aztecs a free kick.
Taking the free kick for the Aztecs was their best player, Martel, and she capitalized on her opportunity to get the Aztecs within one goal.
Coming into the game, Martel had 107 goals during her career at Soledad High — and the record for all-time goals at Soledad is 108. If Soledad was going to beat the Lady Haybalers, they would need her to get close to that record.
After Martel’s first goal, it seemed like Soledad got their second wind of energy, but they still trailed by one with less than 15 minutes left in regulation. But that’s when Martel got her 108th career goal, and the Lady Aztecs came back to tie the game at 2-2, sending it to overtime.
With all the momentum going into overtime, it was the Lady Haybalers who quickly seized control of the game. The Haybalers were able to get two goals to increase their lead by 4-2 in the overtime time period.
Then, Martel broke the school record for most goals by a player with her 109th goal, helping to get the Aztecs within one goal. But, it wouldn’t be enough, as they lost 4-3.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, first-year Soledad head coach Victor Garcia is positive that they will be back.
“Throughout all that, we were able to make the adjustments needed and play competitively to finish the season strong and giving us the opportunity to make it to the post season,” Garcia said. “The past few games were challenging, but the girls left everything on the field despite everything and made school history — which is something very impressive coming from a young team.”
He added that the girls’ soccer program has a lot of talent and he doesn’t doubt that they will make it again to the playoffs.
“As their coach, I could say I am very proud of their achievements this season, and I look forward into working with this soccer program again,” Garcia said. “Not only did I have a great team, but I also had some great staff that helped me with anything needed and supported me through all the season. I couldn’t have done it without my staff.”