As entertaining as Cal Poly-bound Caitlyn Kreutz is to watch with the ball at her feet, Buchanan High teammate Yamilet Biggers knew it was no time to take a moment off.
So Biggers was ready — and delivered the biggest goal of the season for the top-seeded Bears girls soccer team in the semifinals of the Central Section Division I playoffs Tuesday afternoon.
Biggers knocked home a deflection off a Kreutz shot for the go-ahead score in the 69th minute as Buchanan edged No. 4 Frontier 3-2 to earn a 10th straight trip to the final, hosting No. 2 Clovis North at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Bears have won eight of the past nine D-I titles, including the past three in a row.
“I had to be there with (Kreutz) and work for her to put it in,” Biggers said. “It’s all about being there and following up because you never know. She’s such an amazing player. It’s great to work with her and learn from her.”
Kreutz, the reigning Bee Player of the Year, had a hand in creating all three of Buchanan’s goals, the last one coming when she worked into an open spot to the left of the cage and sent a rocket that Titans goalkeeper Madeline Grimes got in front of but couldn’t control.
The rebound went straight at Biggers, who sent a low shot into the goal before Grimes could react.
“I knew in my head the goalie had the angle,” Kreutz said. “So I had to hit it as hard as I could and hope it either slotted through or came back. Thankfully it came back. And (Biggers) did exactly what she needed to do.”
Buchanan (17-3-5) trailed 2-1 at halftime against Southwest Yosemite League champion Frontier (12-5-5), promoted to D-I this season after capturing the D-II title last year.
The Bears struck first when Kreutz drew a foul in the box off a Christina Monreal set piece, exactly what Bears coach Orlando Ramirez had in mind when he instructed Monreal to “find Cait’s feet” before the play. Ramirez had a feeling the Titans would foul, remembering Kreutz drew three such penalties in the box two years ago when the teams met in a tournament. Monreal then converted the penalty kick in the 32nd minute.
But the Titans responded with a goal from Kristen Amarikawa and another from McKenna Darling to take a 2-1 lead into halftime.
Buchanan tied it in the 48th when Kreutz was stopped after a deep run, only to have Cricket Swinney waiting to hammer home a low laser of a shot.
“It was hard to have that momentum taken away,” Ramirez said. “But it’s a testament to out kids’ heart that they came back.”
Frontier had several chances in the second half, but the Bears defense defense didn’t break, with goalkeeper Morgan Cruce bouncing back with a key save off a Darling shot just before the Bears retook the lead.
“I made myself mad inside and told myself to get back in the game,” Cruce said. “I came back solid.”
During Saturday’s final, Buchanan will be facing Tri-River Athletic Conference rival Clovis North, a 1-0 winner over No. 3 Central in the other semifinal, for the third time this season. The teams tied 0-0 on Jan. 27 at Clovis North, with the Bears winning 1-0 at home on Feb. 13.
“We don’t take anything for granted,” Ramirez said. “Every time we’re fortunate enough to make the championship, it takes hard work and dedication. I feel happy for the girls to give themselves another opportunity to win a championship.”