Zebras stay alive in playoffs with two wins

Meet West in semifinals Tuesday
By: Aaron Jackson for The News Messenger
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The Lincoln High School boys soccer team went 16-0-3 on the season to win the Pioneer Valley League title for the third year in a row. Led by head coach George Bonilla, the defending Division III section champions earned the No. 4 seed heading into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Playoffs.

Coming off a big win to start playoffs, the Fighting Zebras were ready to take on the 12th seeded Central Valley Hawks Thursday. The Hawks defeated No. 5 Roseville in a penalty shootout to open their postseason play.

“We are not changing our game plan. If anyone is going to adjust, we’re going to let them adjust to us, not us to them. That is what has made us successful so far. We got on the board fast against Rodriguez (Feb. 20) and I hope we can do the same tonight,” said Coach Bonilla.

But the Zebras did not come out with the fiery start they had against Rodriguez and Central Valley held possession for a majority of the first half. The Hawks had six shots, two on target, and the Zebras took two shots, also on target.

At the 24th minute, Lincoln was reduced to 10 men on the field when Orlando Basurto was given a red card. With their backs against the wall for 56 minutes, the Zebras never wavered, benefitting from goalkeeper Maclean Learned’s four big saves.

In the 66th minute, Julian Zinzun got a breakaway and scored a goal from just outside the 18-yard box. It turned out to be the sole goal, as Lincoln defeated Central Valley 1-0.

After the game, Zinzun stated, “This shows our fight. We didn’t stop playing until the final whistle had blown. Over the season I’ve improved my confidence with the ball by the help of my teammates.”

Keeping their undefeated season alive, Lincoln was scheduled to play 16-seed West in the semifinals Tuesday. The winner will advance to play Saturday against the winner of the Woodcreek vs. Bella Vista semifinal game.

West began their postseason by taking down No. 1 seeded Granite Bay.

Lincoln 3, Rodriguez 1

Lincoln opened the playoffs Feb. 20 against No. 13 Rodriguez from Fairfield. The Mustangs finished the season with a 12-8-2 record.

Heading into the game, Coach Bonilla said, “We’ve been playing well all year and I’m very proud of what the guys have accomplished. The work is just starting; it’s a whole new season now. We have been successful and tonight we just need to play our game.”

Lincoln started the game off strong, constantly attacking Rodriguez. This led to back-to-back goals in the 11th and 12th minutes, both scored by Manuel Martinez and assisted by Christian Villanueva and Fernando Zepeda.

Lincoln took six more shots in the first half, four on target. Rodriguez managed only three shots, one on target.

It was more of the same in the second half, as Lincoln took five shots and ended up scoring one. Martinez completed a hat trick by scoring in the 56th minute. Peyton Buell assisted the Lincoln goal.

Rodriguez picked up the attack, forcing Learned to save four shots in the final 20 minutes of play. The Mustangs finally scored off a Miguel Rodriguez-Chavez penalty kick in the 79th minute.

“We need to communicate better when it comes to Central Valley,” stated Martinez. “Over the year, we’ve really improved chemistry-wise and it shows out on the field.”