Don't look now, but the standard bearer for Central Section girls soccer is a chargin' again.
And that might make selecting Division I's top seed a little tougher for section Commissioner Jim Crichlow and his assistants when they meet Saturday to set playoff pairings for soccer's six boys and girls playoff divisions.
Behind overtime goals from Haylee Lopes and Megan Lynes, The Bee's No. 2-ranked Buchanan High topped No. 1 Clovis North 3-1 on Friday in a Tri-River Athletic Conference finale.
While the Bears (16-4-2, 7-2-1) weren't able to catch the Broncos (16-4-1, 8-2) for the TRAC title, they have won five straight as they begin pursuit of a third consecutive section championship. Buchanan has won seven of the past eight D-I titles and eight overall in program history.
"We knew we had to make a statement going into the postseason," said Lopes, who drilled a 30-yard shot from the left flank just under the top post in the 82nd minute for the go-ahead goal.
"We're playing really well right now. We're back to playing Buchanan soccer."
Buchanan coach Orlando Ramirez said Clovis North deserves the top seed.
But in taking a closer look at the section's seven criteria to break seeding ties, it appears to be a close call if the seeding committee doesn't automatically award the No. 1 to the Broncos.
They split head to head, Clovis North owns a slightly better strength of schedule (22.38 vs. 22.12, as determined by Maxpreps) and overall record (by a half game), Buchanan has the better record vs. common opponents (8-1-1 vs. 8-3), better record vs. playoff teams in the same division (11-2-1 vs. 9-3) and higher place in a common tournament, while the Broncos placed better in league.
Given that County/Metro Athletic champion Bullard lost twice each to Buchanan and TRAC third-place Central, and the two best teams in Kern County (Frontier and Garces) play in Division II, the top seed is clearly a battle between the Broncos and Bears, who have scored 15 goals in their past five games, including a first-half blast from Caitlyn Kreutz.
"After the first half (of TRAC play, where the Bears went 2-2-1,) we made a conscious effort to finish strong," Ramirez said. "It says a lot about their determination to finish out 5-0. Early on, we were having some scoring issues. We were an offensively talented team and we were creating opportunities, we just had to not get discouraged and keep trying."
Clovis North hadn't lost to section opposition on the field (the Broncos forfeited a game to Central at the Garces Tournament that was tied 0-0 at halftime when a player had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital) before dropping its last two regular season games.
The Broncos were without their starting defensive backfield — Megan Claypool, Katrina Thompson and Marisa Thompson — this week. They all rested with minor injuries and are expected back for the playoffs, which begin Wednesday.
Clovis North coach Nick Pappanduros said his team should still be the No. 1 seed, and he wouldn't be surprised if the Broncos and Bears meet again in the playoffs.
"Hopefully that's a preview of another great game in a couple weeks," Pappanduros said. "We are on a collision course to meet again."
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6103, nickg@fresnobee or @NickG_FB on Twitter.