As Golden Valley's boys soccer players trudged out of their locker room for one last time Wednesday evening, glum but with heads held high, the Bulldogs' 1-0 CIF Southern California regional loss to Ontario could be summed as thus:
A frustrating end to a fulfilling season.
Ixander Correa scored on a counter-attack with 20 minutes to play to lead the seventh-seeded Jaguars (22-7-1) past the No. 2 Bulldogs (24-4-1) in the Division I regional quarterfinals. Ontario advances to play Pico Rivera-El Rancho in the Southern Cal semifinals on Thursday.
"It says a lot about our team," Ontario coach Vince Mangione said. "We've been beating good teams all year, and we've been able to adjust all year."
Golden Valley, on the other hand, ended its season 11 days after it won the Central Section Division II championship with a 2-0 victory over Porterville-Monache.
"It was a good season," junior Saratiel Campos said. "The goal was to win Valley, and we accomplished it. But this does take away from it. We wanted to get to the final. It just didn't happen."
Golden Valley held possession for most of the game and had a 7-3 edge in shots on goal. Most of the shots weren't dangerous, but Jaguars goalkeeper Antonio Ramirez stopped any that were.
"I thought we were a better technical team than them, but we came out flat and we didn't take advantage of the chances like we should have," Golden Valley coach Dominic Othart said. "And it's like I always say, it doesn't matter if you out-shoot a team 20-1. It's the ones that go on frame and the ones that go in that count."
The one that went in was set up by Ontario senior Jesus Soria, who took the ball down the right side and sent a bouncing cross to Correa, who hammered the ball off a bounce into the goal.
"That's a guy who hasn't scored many goals, but he takes a tough shot and he puts it away," Mangione said. "It was a beautiful goal, and he'll remember it for the rest of his life."
Golden Valley goalkeeper Elmer Ayon had no chance at stopping the shot.
"They caught us a bit open in the backside," Othart said. "We kind of got lazy defensively, and it cost us."
The rest of the way, Ontario held off Golden Valley for an upset victory.
"Both teams had chances, and Golden Valley is a fantastic squad," Mangione said. "They played some of the best soccer we've seen, and they're one of the fastest teams we've played."
Othart said his players practiced well last week but that having more than a week off after an emotional section championship still played a factor (Southern Section playoffs ended just last week, so Ontario didn't have the same layoff).
"Coming off Valley, it's high emotions, and I think our guys started to think about other things out there," Othart said. "Don't get me wrong, state's a big thing, and we wanted state, and we wanted revenge on San Clemente (the No. 1 seed that beat Golden Valley early in the season). We didn't take it lightly by any means. But it's still hard to get back up."
Golden Valley's best chances came before Ontario's goal. Afterward, they could only crack the Jaguars' back line with hopeful long balls.
"They had a good opportunity, and they finished it," Campos said.
"Then they held us back enough to win the game."