Bullard strikes late to beat Clovis North in girls soccer final

Clovis North battled Bullard in front of a packed crowd at Clovis North in the Division I championship game on Saturday, Feb. 25. (Photo by Tomas Kassahun/Clovis Roundup)

By Tomas Kassahun | Reporter
@TomasKassahun

With a last-minute goal by freshman Jordyne Puentes, the Bullard girls soccer team downed Clovis North 1-0 and clinched a Central Section Division I title.

The goal came after an evenly-played 80 minutes of soccer on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Clovis North.

The Knights, who were unsuccessful on several opportunities earlier in the game, finally found a break when they earned a free-kick in the waning moments.

The Broncos initially blocked the free-kick from Bullard freshman Bailey Arreola. But the ball bounced off the wall of defenders and ricocheted to Puentes, who delivered the game winner.

“It’s amazing. I’m so happy,” Puentes said. “Our coach pushed us to be where we are right now. “We just worked together and finished in the end.”

The Knights dominated possession and controlled play in the first half. In the second half, however, it was the Broncos who stayed on the attack. The Knights tried to capitalize on several counter-attack opportunities, but the Broncos got back on defense each time and prevented shots on target.

“It was a tale of two halves. I thought Bullard definitely had the momentum in the first half and we took it in the second,” Clovis North head coach Nick Pappanduros said. “They got that last play. Both teams were going all out. It was a scrum. The ball came back in and Bullard got that last goal.”

Coming into the game, the key for the Broncos was to contain Bullard sophomore  Alyssa Renovato, who has scored 17 goals on the season.

“We did a great job on [Renovato]. She’s a dynamic player,” Pappanduros said. “I thought we contained her today. Our defense played great. We were unlucky on a ball that bounced, but our defense was phenomenal.”

The Broncos finished the season with a record of 15-7-3 overall, 6-4 overall. They were third in the Tri-River Athletic Conference, behind Buchanan and Clovis.

“Our senior leadership kept us as one team,” Pappanduros said. “We got production from everybody. They played as a team, very proud of this team.”

Pappanduros adds that the loss against Bullard will be a motivator going into next season.

“We’ll lose a few seniors, but we’re pretty young and we’re coming back,” he said. “The goal every year is to get to this game and win it.”

For the Knights, it was always about getting the most out of a talented squad.

“We knew we had enough talent, but talent doesn’t take you the whole way,” Bullard head coach Onesta Francis said. “There have to be moments when you face adversity and how you react to adversity. Every champion goes through those difficult moments. Our girls, as the season went along, faced adversity and they were able to overcome it, whether it was tough games, injuries, family situations.”

Bullard (16-7-2, 7-2-1) was first in the County Metro League.

“I always preach that good things happen to good people and we want to keep on believing,” Francis said. “This is a group that really fought for each other. They really cared for each other, always had each other’s back. It’s good to see them get rewarded for all the hard work they put in.”