There were no goals for the final 78 minutes, a lot of physical, chippy play and plenty of times Stockdale High felt it wasted an opportunity.
But when the final whistle blew Thursday at Stockdale, the Mustangs had a 1-0 girls soccer victory over Clovis and a spot in the Central Section Division I semifinals.
"Any win in the playoffs is a great win," Stockdale coach Janien McGowan said. "We live to see another day."
In the opening two minutes, Mustangs junior Tala Haddad took a feed from Katelyn Thatcher on the right sideline, sliced inside and then placed her shot past Clovis goalkeeper Taylor Reeves.
"We were overjoyed," Haddad said. "We didn't know what to expect coming in, but we're really happy to win."
Stockdale (11-6-2) couldn't finish any of its other opportunities -- Reeves came up with a couple of point-blank saves. But the early goal was enough.
"We didn't have a good scouting report on them," Clovis coach Jeff Annis said. "We had heard they had one really fast girl. And we found out who she was pretty quickly."
Up next, the No. 4-seeded Mustangs will face top seed Fresno-Central at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Stockdale has made four section championships in the past five years but lost all of them to Clovis-Buchanan, which plays at No. 2 Fresno-Bullard in the other semifinal.
"We've never won it before, and we're really excited to take a shot at winning it for the seniors," Haddad said.
This one wasn't in the bank until the final whistle, but Clovis (16-9-3) had only one period of sustained pressure -- the first 15 minutes or so of the second half. After that, the game became extremely physical, with the teams trading yellow cards.
The most dramatic episode came with about 8 minutes left, when Clovis forward Lindsey Dovali was given a yellow card. As the referee presented it to her, she swung her hand at it, screamed a profanity and ran off, turning to kiss her hands and wave to the Stockdale crowd on her way.
"I think frustration set in," Annis said. "The girls got to talking too much, and in the heat of the moment, it's hard to stop that."
For Stockdale, which started the season slowly and has picked up steam along the way, it was just the latest example that it can overcome obstacles.
"It was a very physical game, and you've got to be careful if the ref isn't going to take control," McGowan said. "But we've really been playing well as a unit. The kids are getting more confident. It's taken us these three months to learn that team aspect of the game, but I'm so proud of the kids for getting it done."