This was a long time coming, and the celebration afterward reflected it.
Hugs, shouts and congratulations from fans greeted the Pahrump Valley High School boys soccer team Thursday night after it capped a turnaround season with a 2-1 win over Del Sol that clinched the first regional playoff berth in years for the Trojans.
The Trojans finished the regular season at 12-8-1, 7-5 in the Sunrise League, a game ahead of the Dragons (9-7, 6-6) for fourth place and the last playoff spot.
“It’s great for us because it’s been over a decade,” a jubilant Trojans coach Chris Roberts said. “In two years with our program, we were able to turn it around and get in the playoffs. That’s huge for us.”
Fittingly on Senior Night, senior Jose Chavez, the team’s leading scorer, scored both of Pahrump Valley goals, the first on a header with about 10 minutes left in the first half with an assist from Koby Lindberg.
“It was not meant to be like that,” Chavez explained. “Usually I flick it back into the runs, but I saw the keeper was on the near post, and I flicked it back to the far post.”
The goal sent the noisy crowd of a couple hundred fans into a frenzy, and the vocal support and the home field helped this game have a much different result than the teams’ first meeting, a 3-0 Del Sol win Oct. 1 in Las Vegas.
“It was the energy,” junior goalkeeper Ian Kingsley said. “We definitely had the crowd going for us. The first Del Sol game I just don’t think we were awake the first half, and they capitalized on us. But this game, we knew that was not what was going to happen.”
If Chavez’s goal got the crowd going, Kingsley almost drove them over the edge about 10 minutes into the second half. A very late foul call gave the Dragons a penalty kick, but Kingsley dove low to his right to deflect the ball, and after it knocked against the post, he gathered it in to keep the score 1-0.
“Ian’s save was the play of the game,” Roberts said. Not only did it fire up the crowd, it fired up Kingsley, who in turn tried to fire up his teammates, becoming even more vocal after saving the penalty kick.
“Those don’t happen often, and in a big game like this you have to live your moment,” Kingsley said.
The Trojans had another moment just past the midway point of the half, when junior Fernando Martinez-Fontana’s run toward the goal ended when he was taken down in the box.
“I was making that run, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch the ball because the ball was kind of far from me,” he said. “But they were kicking us every time, and I knew that they were going to kick us. So I said, let’s keep running.”
The resulting penalty kick might as well have been a foregone conclusion as Chavez confidently walked up to the penalty spot and calmly drilled a low-line drive to the keeper’s right and into the net for his 32nd goal of the season. Chavez also leads the Trojans with 13 assists.
“I mix it up. I look at the keeper, I get him nervous and I place it to the corner,” Chavez explained of his technique on penalty kicks. “I was not nervous at all. No way he could dive and get it.”
“Fernando had a great game up front,” Roberts said. “He was pressuring the ball, he was running through, he was making runs, he was pressuring, and that’s what got us that PK. It was his run that went through, and he just didn’t give up on it. They ended up fouling him, and Jose put it away.”
The insurance goal came in handy, as barely two minutes later Del Sol senior midfielder Angello Portocarrero headed in a throw-in to pull the Dragons within a goal.
“It tends to happen in this game,” Roberts said of the Dragons’ answer to the Trojans’ second goal. “It’s that wave of like five to 10 minutes when they come at you with everything they have. It’s like waves breaking on a shore, and eventually it recedes. It was unfortunate for us, but it was great for them that they were able to get that goal and make it exciting.”
And it was, although Del Sol was hit by two setbacks that hurt the chances for a comeback. First, the Dragons’ starting keeper was injured and had to leave the game, then, in the 70th minute, a Del Sol player was issued a red card, forcing the Dragons to play a man down the rest of the way.
Roberts saw no need to change the way the Trojans played under the circumstances.
“The formation that we play is defensive somewhat, and we look for counterattack,” he explained. “They were going to come at us more, which actually led to more opportunities for us with breakaways because they had to push. If I was to change anything, it actually would have made it worse for us.”
The Trojans did have the better chances down the stretch, whether it was a strong Christopher Vega run that created a corner kick, a header by Christian Gonzalez that briefly appeared headed for the net or a booming shot by Chavez that went just wide.
The Dragons did put one scare into the Trojans, when Kingsley had to dive to knock away a shot from 35 yards with just more than two minutes remaining for his fourth and final save.
“At halftime, I told them tonight I don’t play just for you guys,” Kingsley said. “I play for my family and everyone that has gotten me here to this point, and I asked them to do the same. We didn’t play for ourselves, we played for each other.”
Armed with the fourth seed out of the Sunset League, Pahrump Valley drew a Tuesday match with Sunrise Mountain (16-1-1), the top seed in the Sunrise.
“This is awesome,” said Martinez-Fontana, whose nine goals are second on the team. “This is my last home game and the last home game for all of our seniors. We’re going to regionals, and we’re not going to stop there. We’re going to state.”
“I feel solid,” Chavez added. “I feel we can take on Sunrise, get a ‘W,’ then face Mojave and get them back as well.”
The regional tournament continues Thursday and Saturday at the Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex in Las Vegas.
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at email@example.com On Twitter:@PVTimesSports
Class 3A South Tournaments
at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex, Las Vegas
Del Sol vs. Sunrise Mountain, 4 p.m.
Pahrump Valley vs. Moapa Valley, 6 p.m.
Boulder City vs. Western, 4 p.m.
Valley vs. Virgin Valley, 6 p.m.
Final at 2 p.m.
at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex, Las Vegas
Pahrump Valley-Sunrise Mountain winner vs. Valley-Boulder City winner, 4 p.m.
Western-Sky Pointe winner vs. Mojave-Chaparral winner, 4 p.m.
Final at noon
Thursday at Pahrump Valley High School
Sky Pointe-Pahrump Valley winner vs. Valley-Boulder City winner, 4 p.m.
Chaparral-Mojave winner vs. Moapa Valley-Western winner, 6 p.m.
Saturday at Pahrump Valley High School
Final at noon