After the furious first half, Central's defense couldn't maintain its solid play and Valley Center grabbed two more goals, both on defensive breakdowns.
"The turning point was the second goal," said Spartan coach Nabil Noujaim, referring to a pass that made it through to a wide-open player for an easy score. "The way it made its way in was a big error and the whole team paid the price. Their spirit went down after that."
Central's offense didn't fare any better in the second half. The Spartans' starting forwards, Ana Nava and Jennifer Ramirez, were having a tough time getting the ball past their opponents and seemed to be playing one-on-one soccer. The result was many stolen balls and errant passes, something the team wasn't used to in the IVL.
"We tried hard and we gave it our all," Ramirez said. "We had our opportunities and we just missed them. We kept with our game plan we used all season but it just didn't work on offense and on defense the problem was that they are a good passing team."
Valley Center used its pass-happy attack to move the ball quickly around the field, which led to open players and easy moves to the goal. The Jaguars went to the middle of the field most of the match and took advantage of the Spartans' lack of players there.
Alex Campbell made a pass to the middle to set up Lindsay McArther early in the second half for Valley Center's second goal. The Jaguars' third score came off a great diving play by backup Spartan goalkeeper Christina Cervantes to stop a shot by Ness, but nobody picked up Ness as the ball bounded away from Cervantes and Ness went after it and scored.
"In the first half of our season we didn't do very well moving the ball," Jaguar coach Richard Walker said. "In the last couple weeks of the season, however, we played some tough teams and we moved the ball around them better. (Central) didn't make it easy for us and playing some difficult teams in the regular season really prepared us for this match."
The Spartans' final record is 10-9-1.
Central 4, Crawford 3
EL CAJON — The Central boys soccer team survived a marathon match and downed fifth-seeded Crawford 4-3 in a shootout in the first round of the CIF San Diego Section playoffs here Wednesday.
A shot that hit the crossbar and a save by Spartan goalkeeper Humberto Cardenas limited Crawford to three goals in the shootout, while Central converted four of its five chances. Regulation ended with the match tied 3-3 and two 15-minute sudden-death overtimes couldn't decide the up-and-down affair.
Crawford drew first blood 15 minutes into the match but was answered by Spartan freshman Francisco Maya-Espinoza in the 38th minute. Maya-Espinoza found the back of the net again just six minutes into the second half to put his squad ahead 2-1.
Crawford responded with back-to-back goals to reclaim the lead but was matched again by Central on a penalty kick from David Lopez in the 69th minute for a 3-3 tie.
"The boys really hung in there," said Spartan coach Jim Graham. "It was a fabulous game. It was the biggest result for our boys in seven years. This wasn't a normal game for us. We went into this game for a win and not for entertainment. We changed up our defense at the last minute to stop Crawford's offense and we rose to the occasion."
Central will travel to San Diego to square off against fourth-seeded Saint Augustine at 3 p.m. Saturday.
La Jolla 5, Brawley 1
LA JOLLA — The Brawley Union High School boys soccer team's season came to an end with a 5-1 loss to La Jolla in the Division III San Diego CIF Section playoffs here Wednesday.
Jesse Becerra scored the Wildcats' lone goal, on a penalty kick in the first half.
Brawley finishes the season 10-8-4.