SUMNER — Toledo girls soccer has had little luck in penalty shootouts this season, and after dropping a semifinal matchup with Adna last night in a shootout, the Riverhawks fell in the 2B state third-place match to No. 3 Highland in a shootout to capture fourth-place.
Still, with just 13 players available at best for most of the season, Toledo gritted out game after game, win after win, and made it further than it ever has in program history.
“It’s all about passion, love for each other, and commitment to the goal, and the goal was getting top-four,” Toledo coach Noel Vazquez said. “I’d rather have something I can physically put on the shelf at the school, and whenever I come visit now that I’m gone, I’ll be like, ‘I was part of that program,’ and feel proud about it.”
The Riverhawks fell behind in the first half, after playing to a scoreless stalemate for most of it, Highland converted on a free kick in the waning moments of the 40th minute to go ahead 1-0. Then Toledo fought back.
They came out firing in the second half, with several shots on goal and three set pieces in the first five minutes, before senior Marina Smith finally broke through on a short free kick in the 43rd minute to tie it.
After 47 more minutes without a score, the Riverhawks were headed to penalty kicks again. The teams traded blows both ways, with each team making their first five kicks. After Highland made its sixth kick, Paige Hill couldn’t keep it going, missing the net to end the game.
“I think we came out and battled,” Vazquez said. “We struggled a little bit settling in in the first half. They’re a good, competitive team … I have 13, 14 girls that give me everything they have, game in and game out. Going to PKs, losing four games in PKs, it’s not a good taste in our mouths, but we gave ourselves a shot.”
Despite the loss, Toledo’s season was one for the record books, with high-scoring numbers, school records, and a state run the program has never seen before.
Smith scored her 30th goal of the season Saturday against Highland, adding to her single season school record. Rose Dillon already broke the assist record earlier this season, and the Riverhawks won their first state playoff game earlier this year before avenging a loss to Mount Vernon Christian in the quarterfinals to make it to the semis.
“It’s important, It means a lot to me,” Vazquez, who coached his last game at the helm of the Toledo program Saturday. “Coming in as a 21-year-old kid trying to take over after a good coach… I was trying to build something when I was just three years older than my seniors. Going from that to building up this program to where it’s at today, I’m very proud of it. I’m very excited that I’m leaving on a high note.”
Toledo graduates eight seniors, all of whom were instrumental to a strong season: Jazzy Zarate, Briza Gallegos, Jenna Oberndorf, Marina Smith, Vanesa Rodriguez, Rose Dillon, and Greenlee Clark.