"The girls were getting tired," Calexico coach Gabriel Lopez said after the game, himself emotionally drained. As the Spartans celebrated their win on the other side of the field, Lopez first just stood on the field and then went over to sit on the team bench by himself. His players had already slowly filed off to get on the bus for the ride back home.
"They played their best," Lopez said, adding the Bulldogs have nothing of which to be ashamed.
"I knew before this game was going to be very, very intense," Spartans skipper Nabil Noujaim said.
Intense, and exciting. Central has goalie Clarissa Maldonado to thank for withstanding a lot of punishment. Several times she collided with Bulldog forwards while trying to run down shots on goal. Maldonado was knocked to the ground a couple times, but each time she managed to hold onto the ball.
One time the Calexico player she collided with was issued a yellow card, the impact and foul being so great.
"I wasn't going to let that ball go in," Maldonado said. "I wanted to win this game bad. It was for the IVL championship."
Calexico jumped to a 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the contest when Enid Perez scored from the right side from 15 yards out.
Perez lofted the ball just over the outstretched arms of a leaping Maldonado.
Central didn't find the net until 14 minutes into the second half. Marisol Rodriguez took a pass from Alma Gutierrez, slipped through two defenders and hammered the ball between the goal posts.
The score remained 1-1 until Laura Rodriguez scored in the second overtime. Lurking in front of the net, Rodriguez took a crossing pass from Ana Nava on the right side and somehow managed to slip the ball into the goal despite a determined goalie and a couple Bulldog defenders standing around her.
Both teams had several real scoring opportunities but the play of Maldonado and Calexico goalie Vanessa Jimenez kept the ball out of the net.
There were times it looked like both teams surely would score, but somehow the ball stayed out.
"It's soccer," Lopez said. "A lot of time luck has to do with it."
Luck or not, both teams were battling for first place.
"They are a very good team," Noujaim said of Calexico. "They are improving every year."
And while Central is not in first place in the IVL with a 6-0-1 mark and Calexico slips a notch to 5-1-1, Lopez isn't conceding anything.
"It's not over," he said, noting the second half of league play has just started. One loss by the Spartans and they are tied once again.
Central (12-6-1 overall) hosts Palo Verde at 6:30 p.m. Friday while Calexico (9-2-1) travels to Blythe on Tuesday to take on Palo Verde at 6 p.m.