Hart Indians boys’ soccer was just a few minutes away from heading into overtime of its Division 1 playoff opener with the hosting Carter Lions on Wednesday.
Hart midfielder Marcos Garza opted to end the game in regulation and netted the game-winning goal in the 77th minute, breaking the scoreless tie of the defensive battle.
Garza found space on the back post and headered in the goal off a throw-in from defender Messiah Antwi to win the game, 1-0.
The win gave a fairly young Indians team and first-year head coach Alex Bernal their first playoff win together.
“It shows that we’re in Division 1 for a reason,” Bernal said in a phone interview. “The boys bought in, they believe in themselves. As coaches we believe in them wholeheartedly. We’ve just asked them to believe in themselves and to make sure to work. We’ve been doing that and now we just have to keep pushing.”
Hart (16-4-1) controlled the ball for the majority of the contest. The Indians’ recipe for building through the back led to a handful of chances but nothing could break through the Lions’ goal until the final three minutes.
Carter (10-5-5) had a couple of five-minute spurts in which the team pressed up on the attack but Hart was able to hold on thanks to some defense from the backline and goalkeeper Marco Gonzalez.
Bernal reminded his team the game was going to be a defensive matchup and that if the group stood tall, a goal would eventually follow.
“The boys played our game,” Bernal said. “They didn’t panic and we reminded them to stay patient and eventually were able to pull through. We did miss on a couple opportunities that maybe we could have put the game away earlier. But I’m happy with the performance of the boys. They did a good job staying patient.”
Hart now evades another two-hour bus ride and will return home on Friday to host the Orange Lutheran Lancers.
Orange Lutheran opened up the playoffs with a 3-1 win over Sunny Hills despite skidding into the playoffs as the team went winless in five games.
The Indians will look to slow down Lancers seniors Xavier Alcantar and Ethan Phillips, the two leaders of Orange’s balanced attack.
Hart takes on Orange Lutheran at Larry Fiscus Field on Friday at 3 p.m.