The Central Catholic High Raiders rested in a circle Thursday afternoon and assessed the first half.
The message from coach Marten Oliveira broke down thus: Scoreless tie. Downwind in the second half. Let's go.
"I thought we had a good chance," he said.
The Raiders responded, all right, and they won't stop until they reach the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V girls soccer final.
Goals by Sara Pimentel, Ana Hernandez and Meredithann Franco, all within a dizzying 10-minute span early in the second half, guaranteed Central Catholic's 3-0 victory over Patterson at Patton Field.
Central Catholic will meet Trans-Valley League champion Ripon on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Lincoln High.
A crowd of about 100 witnessed a game effort by Patterson (17-6-2), which appeared in only its second-ever playoff game following its 2-0 victory Tuesday over Bret Harte. The Tigers matched up well while they enjoyed the wind advantage during the first half.
Jessica Herrera, a high-scoring junior, narrowly overshot the crossbar during a free kick early in the game. Patterson, which beat Central Catholic (18-5-2) once in three tries during the regular season, gained some early confidence.
"We lost the coin toss, and I didn't want to give them the early advantage. They scored twice downwind during the first half against Bret Harte," Oliveira said. "We wanted that (advantage)."
When the teams changed sides for the second half, however, Central Catholic assumed control. Predictably, the catalyst was sophomore Pimentel, the team's leading scorer. She won a possession duel with defender Valeria Ramirez near midfield, attacked into the middle and fired from about 30 yards. Patterson goalkeeper Geraldi Saucedo reached above her head, but the ball caromed off her hand and into the net for Pimentel's 32nd goal of the season.
"I think that was the ice-breaker," Pimentel said.
Seven minutes later, Hernandez, a freshman, finished from a tough angle near the far post after a long cross from Sarah Manseau. And only three minutes after Hernandez's goal, Franco — a sophomore — headed it home after Pimentel's corner.
Central Catholic, which lost to Hilmar in last year's section final, will make a return trip despite losing nine seniors. The Raiders boast zero seniors, only two juniors and the rest underclassmen. They eliminated a Patterson team which loses only four seniors.
"I'm proud of my girls," Patterson coach Cade Tomasegovich said. "I feel with what we're losing, compared to what we're gaining (Patterson's JV team was unbeaten), I definitely feel we'll be back in the thick of things."
For Central Catholic, however, the future is Saturday.
Bee sports writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.