Palo Verde is set to enter the Division III boys soccer state tournament on a high note after shutting out Catalina 2-0 at home Tuesday night, dashing the Trojans' hopes of their own playoff berth in the final week of the regular season.
"It was a little disappointing," Catalina coach Kris Hensley said.
"We needed this win to get to state so the loss puts us out. I think we could have played better than that, but stuff happens."
Speed, agility and precise passing set the pace of the game in favor of the Titans.
In the 23rd minute, Juan Miranda took a long shot attempt from the corner, and it paid off as the ball slipped past Catalina goalkeeper Jose Fimbres' reach giving the seventh-ranked Titans (11-5) a 1-0 lead.
Fimbres didn't allow another goal the rest of the half, making four saves in the first 40 minutes and a total of eight for the game.
"We have been working on the corners and coming to the ball, so the stuff we are working on in practice is something they are seeing in the game," Palo Verde coach Mario Gastelum said. "Their hard work is paying off. I didn't do a lot of subbing, so it was the starting lineup majority of the time."
The second half opened with aggression and frustration on both ends of the field. The physical contact intensified as players hit the ground hard with only seconds passing in between fouls called.
Finally in the 57th minute, tempers boiled over as Palo Verde forward Ather Dawood earned a yellow card. However, it did not stop the Titans from attacking.
Just three minutes after the yellow card incident, Palo Verde junior forward Bwaleso Igulu headed the ball in to give the Titans a 2-0 lead over Catalina. The fans and field exploded with excitement, and Igulu celebrated with a no-handed back flip.
"My goal this season is to win the state championship," Igulu said. "I did what I had to do for my team to get us there."
According to Gastelum, Igulu has had a rough season thus far, so to see him score after struggling was very rewarding.
"Where we are at is a good spot going into the playoffs," Gastelum said. "Overall I'm happy. There are a few things we need to work on."