A last minute goal from junior Hugo Mendoza helped the Clovis boys’ soccer team secure a 2-1 win against Rocklin on Dec. 19 at Lamonica Stadium. Mendoza’s goal came in a frantic final 10 minutes which saw Rocklin on its heels, desperately trying to deny the game winner. The Cougars, who failed to capitalize on five corner kicks in the last 10 minutes, finally found the back of the net on a free kick.
Mendoza was initially getting ready to take the free kick in the final minute. Cougars’ head coach Danny Amparano, however, had another idea.
“Hugo was going to kick the ball. I told him to get in because he was tired,” Amparano said. “I said get in one last time. Carlos [Osuna] kicked the ball, then Hugo hit the header to go in.”
Just like that a euphoric celebration broke out at Lamonica Stadium. The Cougars, ranked No. 1 in the Central Section according to MaxPreps, improved their record to 11-1. Rocklin, which is ranked by MaxPreps as the No. 9 team in the Sac-Joaquin Section of Northern California, dropped to 5-1-1.
“We’ve been working on set pieces. We got our big guys in there and just crashed the goal and got a header,” junior captain Tyler Hensel said. “We were just thinking of holding them in their own half towards the last few minutes. We knew that if we kept pushing, we would get a goal.”
The Cougars first got on the scoreboard when Alex Martinez found Jeff Battaion for the game’s first goal in the 23rd minute. Having dodged a few more bullets in the first half, the Thunder only trailed 1-0 going to the break.
“I feel like we should have capitalized more, but their defense was good,” Hensel said. “They’re a great team. We heard a lot of great things about them.They’re up there in the state. We were expecting a good game and that’s what we got.”
The Thunder, who were limited on chances throughout the game, equalized in the second half.
With seconds before the final whistle, the Thunder pushed for one more equalizer. But they failed to hit the target on a desperate last second effort and suffered their first loss of the season.
“I believe in our team. I believe that we will battle all 80 minutes, till the last second. We have done it before. We have a very special thing here,” Amparano said. “Our kids are mentally strong, so I don’t think it’s hard on them. This is what they do. We train to be in games like this and to have opponents like this.”
The Cougars were coming off a 4-2 win against Buchanan in the final of the Cougar Classic on Saturday, Dec. 17.
“We have great coaches who push us everyday, no practices off,” Hensel said. “All our kids push everyday, so we’re just great in that aspect.”
League play will begin on Friday, Jan. 6. when the Cougars play at Clovis East (1-5-2).