Coming in the 76th minute of a tense affair between the Western Athletic Conference rivals, Mendoza’s goal put the Tigers (6-1-1 WAC) into a first-place tie with the Central Valley Hawks (6-1-1).
“I saw an angle and I took the shot,” Mendoza said. “To make that goal — I felt like I was floating. We’re back at the top (of the standings), and that’s what we were playing for.”
Patterson fell out of first place in the league with a 2-1 loss to the Livingston High Wolves on the road Thursday, Oct. 4.
The Tigers played to a scoreless tie against defending WAC champion Central Valley on Sept. 13 in Ceres. The team’s focus on Tuesday was as much on getting back into first place as on proving it belongs in the conference championship discussion.
The win was Patterson’s first defeat of Central Valley since the Hawks joined the WAC in 2010.
Tigers coach Greg Hartsell was pleased with his team’s effort.
“What really impressed me was the way that the team was prepared to play,” Hartsell said. “We were focused. We were mentally ready.”
The Hawks executed a game plan that relied heavily on defense with bursts of counterattacking soccer. For the better part of Tuesday night, the Tigers were consistently frustrated as they tried to earn the game’s first goal. Patterson’s perseverance finally paid off, however, with Mendoza’s match winner.
“These are two great teams going against each other,” Hartsell said. “We are privileged to come out with the win.”
Neither team showed any lack of energy during the game’s opening stages.
Intensity from both sides favored the defenses early on, and scoring opportunities rarely developed, but as the first half wore on, the match opened up.
Patterson had its best scoring chance of the opening half when, in the 17th minute, senior Kiki Gonzalez directed a deft pass into open space in the Hawks’ area for sophomore Andres Herrera. With just the goalkeeper to beat, Herrera kicked a blistering shot that Central Valley’s Andrez Cazares got a hand on and deflected off the inside of the near post for the defense to clear.
The Hawks had their chance to take the lead in the 28th minute. On a counterattack against the run of play, Diego Duran took a chance from 20 yards out that eluded the upward grasp of Tigers keeper Jose Rodriguez but skimmed off the top of the crossbar.
The match turned into a track meet in the final 40 minutes as both sides looked to exploit defensive lapses by their opponents. Aggressive play led to yellow cards against Central Valley’s Ozzie Ramos in the 45th minute and both Kevin Webb of Central Valley and Herrera in the 71st minute.
With about four minutes to play, Patterson’s attack finally broke through.
Mendoza controlled the ball in the middle of Central Valley’s half, spun around a defender, dribbled left and then fired an angling shot at the net. The ball went over two Hawks and flew past Cazares for the goal.
“Central Valley is a team that always plays us tough — they’re always on top,” Mendoza said. “Now, we have the opportunity to win league.”
With the minutes winding down, the Hawks tried but could not break through the Tigers’ defense, and the match ended in favor of Patterson.
The game’s final whistle sparked a wild celebration among members of the home team, who mobbed each other as the shocked Hawks trudged off the pitch.
“The most important thing is we’re back tied with Central Valley,” Hartsell said. “Now we need to do what we need to do and finish this season out with a lot more wins. We can’t worry about any other teams. We just need to stay focused. It’s a good feeling to be where we are now.”
The Patterson High Tigers continue their season at 4 p.m. today, Oct. 11, when they travel to face Los Banos High.
The JV Tigers fell to Central Valley 1-0 in a WAC match at Patterson Community Stadium on Tuesday.
Patterson (3-3-1) failed to finish several scoring chances, and Central Valley booted home a goal in the 73rd minute. The Tigers’ furious late push for a tying goal did not come to fruition.
“I’m not happy with the loss, but I’m happy with how we played,” said Patterson coach Cade Tomasegovich. “We gave ourselves a bunch of opportunities, but we couldn’t hit the net.”
The teams’ latest defeat came on the heels of a 3-2 loss to Livingston High on Thursday.
In that contest, Maurico Gallardo and Argenis Torres scored a goal apiece for Patterson.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com.