East Wake’s last line of defense all year was Migeul Valdivia in a season that lasted longer than expected. But when the senior goalie needed an emotional lift, his teammates were quick to console him.
Valdivia was sprawled on the turf in anguish when Ashley scored the decisive goal on the final penalty kick for a 2-1 (4-3 PKs) victory over the Warriors Thursday night in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
“They know Miguel has come up with great games for us through the course of the season,” East Wake coach Jonathan Hasbrouck said. “Penalty kicks is a cruel way to lose game, especially in the playoffs. But it has to be done.”
The teams had played to a 0-0 tie for nearly 77 minutes of regulation until Ashley’s Joe Cenatiempo scored with 3:04 to play to seemingly end the match. But East Wake answered on Garrett Johnson’s goal with 1:42 remaining to force overtime at 1-1.
After two 10-minute scoreless overtime periods followed by two five-minute overtime sessions for a total of 110 minutes, the game went to penalty kicks.
The score was 3-3 in penalty kicks when Cenatiempo stepped up for Ashley’s final attempt. He scored to the top right corner of the net. Valdivia dived for the ball in vain and remained lying on the turf. But as Ashley’s players celebrated, Valdivia was soon surrounded by his teammates with consoling hands on his shoulders.
“We’re a very tight team,” said Johnson, a senior team captain.
It was a season that started slowly before it accelerated with a 10-game win streak, Greater Neuse River Conference title and ultimately an abrupt finish in the playoffs for a 16-7-2 final record. Ashley advanced with a 14-4-2 mark.
“I told the boys they took me on a great journey with the conference championship and three rounds into the playoffs until that late penalty kick,” Hasbrouck said. “I’m very proud of them and how they handled themselves.”
The game was a defensive struggle for different reasons. Valdivia had four first-half saves, while East Wake’s scoring opportunities were limited by a four strong defenders with 6-foot-plus height and bulk.
At one point in the first half, Hasbrouck scolded his team for too often futilely forcing the ball into the middle of the defense on scoring attempts. Corner kicks were East Wake’s best scoring opportunities.
Once Ashley seemed to clinch the game, East Wake went all-men forward. Johnson, a defender, tapped in from the back post an assist from freshman Eduardo Lopez.
“That’s an indication of how we played all year,” Johnson said. “We haven’t given up, and we’ve always stuck together. It was a great season, winning a conference title. It’s disappointing how it ended, but it was a great season.”