But little did the Lightning players, coaches and fans know at the time, ahead lay only bitter disappointment and at least for the six Sage seniors, postgame tears.
Rosamond (14-5-3) had a little destiny of its own to fulfill, as the Roadrunners rallied for a 3-1 win to earn the program’s first trip to the semifinals.
“The quarterfinals were a first for us,” Rosamond Coach Anthony Ramos said. “So this is like icing on the cake, you know.”
Gyulay’s goal added frosting to what had been a sweet postseason for the Lightning (12-3-6), which at that point, had outscored their three playoff opponents, 18-1.
But Rosamond put a halt to the home team’s euphoria by netting the equalizer just five minutes later.
Sophomore forward John Rodriguez finished a deft give-and-go with senior Mike Guillen by firing the ball into the net from about 10 yards out.
Rodriguez, whom Ramos said had scored two goals in a game only once this season heading into Friday, finished again in the 71st minute. Rodriguez benefited from a bobbled rebound that followed a booming shot off a direct kick from about 25 yards out along the east sideline. The initial blast bounded off the Sage goalie’s hands directly onto the foot of Rodriguez, who didn’t miss his opportunity.
“Usually, [Rodriguez] dishes the ball,” Ramos said. “But he came through today with two goals.”
Sage battled feverishly to try to tie the score, but Rosamond iced the game by scoring with the goalie out of the cage in the third minute of extra time.
Milner was a standout at midfield all night for the Lightning, who had not allowed more than two goals in their previous 17 games.
Seniors Michael Bear, Max Ellison, Craig Jackson, Nick Singarella and Kyle Simon saw their high school careers come to an end.
“It’s emotional for the seniors,” Sage Coach Noureddine El-Alam said. “They’ve all played for four years.
“I don’t think [the Roadrunners] were stronger than us. I thought they were a decent team, but I thought we played well, as well. We were hoping to go a little further, but I’m proud of the kids. They played hard and they played with heart. It has been a good season for us.”
BARRY FAULKNER may be reached at (714) 966-4615 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.