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Hemet falls just short in quarterfinals

02/22/2013, 12:36pm PST
By Justin Montello

La Quinta downs Hemet in the Division V quarterfinals

— One kick a few inches off the mark and one just true enough led to the downfall of the Hemet High girls soccer team Thursday.

La Quinta’s Brielle Leon launched a shot from 35 yards that was just out of reach of Bulldogs goalkeeper Sarai Esquivel, giving La Quinta a 1-0 win in the CIF Southern Section Division V quarterfinals.

The symmetry between the two teams’ performance and the smallest difference between winning and losing couldn’t have been more evident.

With only seconds left to play, Hemet (22-1-3) forward Monnerratt Cruz also launched a shot from about 35 yards out that sent La Quinta (20-4-4) keeper Gina Anesko desperately lunging toward the upper right of the goal.

For a moment, it appeared to get in goal, but the ball hit the post, falling harmlessly to the ground and into Anesko’s hands.

Moments later, the Bulldogs had suffered their first loss of the season, cutting short dreams of a championship run.

“There was a second there when I looked up and thought it might go in, and you just hope,” Cruz said. “But it wasn’t meant to be. The game can be cruel that way.”

Though the teams played remarkably even throughout the match and created a similar number of shot opportunities, La Quinta looked the faster team Thursday, getting out on transition quicker and winning the possession game.

“That’s what we do, we play a possession game,” La Quinta coach Bobby Quattlebaum said. “We were able to play our game and did a good job on defense of limiting Hemet’s chances.”

What may have affected the Bulldogs’ energy was a trying and emotional 2-2 (3-2) win over Summit on penalty kicks just 48 hours prior on Tuesday.

“You don’t want to make excuses but of course a game like that can have an affect on a team,” Hemet coach Craig Dwinnell said. “We’re proud of the great season we’ve had. Sometimes it just doesn’t fall your way.”

Tired legs may have played a part in Thursday’s outcome.

“You could say that it’s difficult to have the same level so quickly after a game like the last one,” Bulldogs forward Krista Haddock said. “You’ve got to do whatever you can to overcome that.”

Haddock, who Dwinnell described as his most dangerous scoring threat, had a trio of opportunities coming down the wing in the second half.

“I had my looks and my chances but it just didn’t happen for me tonight,” Haddock said.

The Bulldogs also had a pair of serious threats late in regulation, one from a corner kick and another from a throw-in near the La Quinta goal that failed to materialize.

The throw-in was particularly frustrating to Dwinnell, as Hemet offensively appeared out of place and ill prepared as Anesko seized the moment and assertively intercepted the pass.

“Late in the season, we’ve been having troubling finishing, to have a chance like that and no one step up to attack the ball hurts,” Dwinell said.

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