CLOVIS -- The Stockdale High girls soccer team came oh-so-close to finally pulling off what now has to seem like the impossible.
For the sixth time in eight seasons, the Mustangs finished as the Central Section Division I runner-up to Clovis-Buchanan, this time falling 6-5 in a penalty shootout that went eight rounds.
"Overall we played better as a team," Stockdale coach Janien McGowan said. "We played our hearts out and these kids have a lot of guts. I think people took us lightly."
The Mustangs' performance was made all the more impressive by the fact that they played the final 12:27 of regulation plus 30 minutes of overtime a man down and were able to force the game to penalty kicks. Senior Alexis Perez was assessed a red card for pulling down the Bears' Alexis Weigant on a breakaway attempt.
"To play a man down for (42) minutes is amazing, it is just amazing," McGowan said.
Stockdale had its chances down the stretch to possibly win the game.
First came a two-on-one breakaway opportunity with 17:30 left in regulation. Katelyn Thatcher broke free down the middle and passed to the left to a slashing Tala Haddad, who drilled a shot into the bottom right corner of the goal. However, the side-judge threw up his flag calling Haddad for being offside on her run.
"I didn't think I was offsides, but the ref called it and we had to move on with the game," Haddad said.
The Mustangs' second chance came in the second 10-minute period of the first overtime. With no one paying attention, Haddad took a quick, short corner kick pass from Bianca Hoban and dribbled uncontested into the box and had a shot hit the bottom of the right post and bounce away.
With the penalty kicks tied 5-5, Buchanan's Megan Lynes stepped up and hit a ball high that went just over the fingertips of Stockdale goalie Tori Farris and just under the cross bar to put the Bears ahead 6-5. Then Rebecca Shelton's shot was blocked by Buchanan's Summer Hammond to continue the Bears' dominance in this rivalry.
"We knew that regardless of what our records were and what our previous scores were coming in that the weight of the rivalry already was going to make it a very tough game," Buchanan coach Orlando Ramirez said. "Hats off to them, they played a great game."