An unlikely player capped Bullard High’s unexpected run to the Central Section Division I girls soccer title.
Freshman Jordyne Puentes came off the bench and scored in the 80th minute, lifting the seventh-seeded Knights to a 1-0 victory over No. 4 Clovis North on Saturday. It’s the fourth section championship for Bullard, adding to Yosemite Division crowns won in 1984 and 1985 and a D-I title in 2011, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
“Before the game I was telling my coaches in championship games normally we need someone to step up who’s a little unexpected. It was a freshman,” Bullard coach Onesta Francis said. “We brought her off the bench in the last 10 minutes. She said, ‘Hey coach, can I make some overlapping runs?’ I said, ‘Do your thing and trust yourself.’ She got her opportunity and buried it.”
The winning goal for Bullard (16-7-2) developed out of a free kick after a penalty by Clovis North (15-7-3) as the game went into extra time.
Bailey Arreola, a fellow freshman, sent the free kick into a Broncos wall. The ball ricocheted back to Arreola, who one-touched it to Puentes.
Puentes, on the right flank, caught goalkeeper Angie Petrakis defending the other side of the cage and snuck her fifth goal of the season – and third game-winner – into the back of the net.
“When the ball was in the air, I knew it was my moment,” Puentes said. “I saw (Petrakis) on the opposite side of the goal. I knew it was my time, so I shot it and it went in.”
Clovis North’s Karlee Pottorff got off one last shot before the whistle, but Bullard goalkeeper Samantha Goodrich was there to preserve her seventh shutout of the season, with help from defenders Arreola, Jessica Crump, Kamryn Sorrick, Catie Halvorsen and Khylia Dejean.
“It was a great game,” Clovis North coach Nick Pappanduros said. “I felt Bullard had the momentum in the first half and we had it in the second. Bullard just kept going and got the goal at the end.”
Bullard’s postseason run included a 3-0 victory over No. 10 Central in the opening round, a 4-2 defeat of No. 2 Buchanan in the quarterfinals and a 1-0 win against No. 6 and defending champion Clovis East in the semifinals.
The Knights had previously lost to Central (3-2 on Dec. 30) and Clovis North (1-0 on Dec. 6) and tied Buchanan (1-1 on Dec. 16).
“When I first started coaching about eight years ago it was only two or three teams that could really win it,” Francis said. “This year there were legit six, seven, eight teams that had a legitimate opportunity to come win it. We happened to be the one to get hot and get on a roll, and I think it showed our character and team spirit.”
Bullard advances to the CIF Southern California Regionals in Division I. Playoff pairings are to be announced March 5.