The Estancia High boys’ soccer team learned a lesson in persistence on Friday night.
After conceding a goal in the second minute, the Eagles chased the match for nearly the entire contest.
Estancia carried the play, sprinting into the attacking third and earning countless set-piece chances, only to be turned away. Finally, in the 75th minute, the Eagles were able to get on the other end of one of their set pieces.
Junior forward Alessandro Madrigal scored on a back-post run, and the Eagles rallied to secure a 1-1 tie against visiting Saddleback in an Orange Coast League match.
Madrigal, a recent call-up from the junior varsity team, scored his first career varsity goal. It came when the Eagles quickly played a corner kick in an effort to keep the Roadrunners from getting set defensively.
Miguel Pena rolled the ball over to Gerardo Leon Camberos, who lobbed a cross into the box. Madrigal slid in, and he tucked his shot up and under the crossbar.
“It really means a lot, not just to me, but to the team, knowing that [Saddleback is] the team that is ahead of us,” Madrigal said. “It just helps us to keep going and push through every game.”
Estancia (10-5-4, 3-1-2 in league) remains in third place (11 points) in league with four matches remaining. Saddleback (9-5-2, 4-1-1) is tied with Santa Ana (16-5-2, 4-1-1), which shares the No. 10 spot in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll, for first place (13 points).
Eagles coach Robert Castellano said that Madrigal received meaningful minutes for the first time in his career, but he said he was impressed with what he saw after Madrigal came off the bench for the final 15 minutes of the first half.
“He was making a lot of good runs,” Castellano said. “He was working hard, and he was just being very positive with the team. I saw a lot of positives.”
Saddleback nearly retook the lead in stoppage time. A scramble in front of the Estancia goal saw the ball land at the feet of Omar Hernandez. He swung his right foot through, and the ball went toward the right post, but senior center back Eric Avonce was there to cover for senior goalkeeper Victor Jacinto (two saves).
“Eric Avonce is a really great defender,” Estancia senior midfielder Brian Alvarez said. “We have no doubts on him. He was there. He risked his life for us to stay equal with them and have a chance to win it, but the result was a tie.”
The Roadrunners struck first when Jose Lemus got to a ricochet in front of the Estancia goal. Lemus passed the ball over to Gilberto Garcia, who put Saddleback on top.
“We just had a mental lapse in the first two minutes, and unfortunately, I feel like that was the only time that they were super dangerous against us,” Castellano said.
Estancia would threaten with its speed and the booming leg of Jacinto throughout the contest, but Saddleback defended the set pieces that it conceded well. Senior center back Victor Lima was a big part of the Roadrunners’ defensive effort.
“[The tie] actually makes us feel that our work didn’t pay off, but in reality, it did pay off,” Lima said. “It was just 1-1.”
The Eagles challenged the Roadrunners, attempting 17 shots and drawing four yellow cards against Saddleback players.
Alexis Lopez made eight stops in goal for the Roadrunners.