No amount of rain was going to call off the boys soccer match between San Marcos High and visiting Santa Ynez.
And, even though the conditions worsened minute after minute, no players, on either side, would have wanted the contest to be called either.
This match had a lot on the line for both programs.
For the Royals, a win would mean their first Channel League victory so far this season.
For the Pirates, a win would mean them staying in front of the Channel League standings with a 3-1 record.
However, despite battling through intense conditions, neither team would come out the victor Thursday night with the match resulting in a 1-1 draw at Warkentin Stadium.
“With the exception of the goal we gave up, I thought we played well and played the way we needed to play,” San Marcos coach Paul McLean said.
“We kept the ball, we worked the ball around and we defended pretty well. I was not disappointed with our team’s performance. I mean the result, sometimes that happens but, I actually liked the way we played.”
San Marcos is now 0-2-2 in Channel League play while the Pirates are 2-1-1.
In the first half, with the rain out in full effect, neither team could pour in a goal.
Both defenses were fantastic in their efforts, constantly forcing turnovers in the final third to not even allow shots, let alone shots on target.
In the first 40 minutes, Santa Ynez took three shots, with only one being on target and it being saved by the capable arms of Sam Friedman. San Marcos registered zero shots.
At the start of the second half, the Royals quickly changed their offensive approach and started being more aggressive in their shot taking.
In the 41st minute, San Marcos nearly scored when Anthony Contreras served a ball into the box that found senior defender Julio Montes.
The Royals captain then put an aggressive right foot behind the ball that would have found the back of the net if not for a Santa Ynez player standing right there to clear it away.
One minute later, San Marcos’ Miguel Mondragon shot a ball from about 30 yards out. With the conditions the way they were, the ball was slippery and Santa Ynez’s keeper fumbled the ball out of bounds, resulting in a corner for the Royals.
Despite nothing coming out of the corner, it was clear San Marcos’ approach to the second half was to shoot the ball as hard as possible to score off a deflection.
That strategy paid off in the 60th minute when Mondragon took a free kick 35 yards from the net.
The shot hit Edgar Guerrero, the Pirates keeper, straight in the chest and was bobbled in the six-yard box until finally, Contreras fired the ball into the back of the net to put the Royals up 1-0.
“Good things happen when you shoot the ball and so we took some more shots and it was good to see. We don’t play in these conditions very often, I think that is true for both teams, but it was fun,” McLean said.
San Marcos stayed on the aggressive end for the next ten minutes, trying to get an insurance goal to safely walk away with its first Channel League win.
The Royals had another shot on goal minutes later, but that one was safely possessed by Guerrero.
On the flip side, the Pirates were desperate to tie the match, continually playing the ball into the final third before a San Marcos defender would play the ball out.
Connor Hess was one such defender for the Royals who played outstanding Thursday, constantly heading balls away from the goal and consistently putting pressure on Santa Ynez’s forwards.
In the 72nd minute, however, a mistake in the back end cost San Marcos its lead.
A pass was easily coming into the arms of Friedman and two nearby Royals defenders, however, the three miscommunicated who should handle the ball.
Instead, the ball went past Friedman and was collected by the Pirates Ricky Romero, who with a clear goal in the front of him, nailed the shot.
“Sam made so many great saves tonight and that goal looked more like miscommunication then it was a bad play. It happened at the worst place, but we will move on,” McLean said.
The Pirates nearly netted a game winner just a few moments later. A header in the 18 found its way to a Santa Ynez player who was one on one with Friedman. The player sailed the shot, however.
In the closing moments, both teams attempted desperately to get clean looks, but a solid defensive effort that was there all night for both teams would not allow the game to end in anything but a 1-1 tie.
“The boys are always surprising us and teaching us that they never give up. They played their hearts out,” Pirates coach Rick Joyner said after the game.
“Playing these big Santa Barbara schools is always tough, but it has made us better in more ways than one and we are showing that we are right there with them.”
For San Marcos, the team has shown the ability to get out in front but also play from behind to catch teams.
The one thing it hasn’t shown is the ability to get that game-winning goal, something Friedman knows needs to happen for this team to reach its potential.
“We played well tonight, there were just some things that didn’t go our way,” said Friedman, who had five saves in goal for the Royals.
“We are right there, but we need to be able to score and get that winning shot.”