Late in its second-round playoff game Wednesday afternoon, the Arroyo Grande High boys soccer team had reached desperation.
At the moment when the Eagles needed it the most, though, they came through, as Christian Chora scored on a Morgan Wack assist during stoppage time for a 2-2 tie, forcing overtime in the closing seconds.
After two scoreless overtimes, though, Arroyo Grande lost a heartbreaker to visiting Carpinteria, 5-4 on penalty kicks, in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 postseason at Doug Hitchen Stadium.
“I really thought that we might put it away in OT, because (Carpinteria’s) energy seemed to have went down,” Eagles coach Brad Bowdey said, “but it just wasn’t meant to happen.”
In a spectacular back-and-forth finish, a player from each team was given an opportunity to re-kick once, after both goalkeepers were called for stepping forward.
Oscar Montes gave Carpinteria (18-3-3) the final advantage it would need in the penalty-kick session, as the ensuing attempt to match by Eagles star midfielder Christian Garcia was deflected.
Garcia, Bowdey emphasized, “makes 99 percent of his PKs. That’s why he was last. He’s the man. He’s like money.”
Chora tallied Arroyo Grande’s first goal, assisted by Matt Corella, 17 minutes into the contest.
Carpinteria, the Tri-Valley League champion, answered with its pair of regulation scores in an abrupt four-minute sequence 13 minutes into the second half.
“I give them a lot of credit,” Bowdey said. “One thing we noticed when we were researching them was that they had a tendency to score a lot on direct kicks. Anything high in the box, they were able to clean up on, and we were afraid that was going to kind of be our Achilles heel tonight, and they got both their goals that way.”
After taking the 2-1 lead, Carpinteria dropped back on defense, and Arroyo Grande’s intensity visibly went up a notch to find the equalizer. “We’ve done this all year,” Bowdey said. “Anytime we’ve been down, we’ve fought and come back.
“They completely stepped up. They refused to lose on the field, and they didn’t lose on the field; they lost in PKs, unfortunately. But they did not lose this game on the field today.”
The Eagles had opened the playoffs with a 4-0 rout of Santiago of Garden Grove.
Had they won Wednesday, it likely would’ve meant a rare third consecutive home game, as Arroyo Grande won a Southern Section coin flip for the right to host La Cañada, had La Cañada held up its end of the bargain and topped Whittier Christian in its second-round matchup. La Cañada, the division’s top seed, opened the postseason with a 9-3 win over Nogales.
The ending brought to a close what was a storybook season for Arroyo Grande (15-6-4), which captured the PAC 7 title outright, its first league crown since the 2004-05 season.
“We’re disappointed. This team really had higher aspirations (to advance further),” Bowdey said. “The draw (the way the bracket was set up) was to our favor. To lose it in PKs is really hard, for sure.”