By Chandler Lucas
We are midway through January and boy has it never looked so gloomy outside. The weather has been nothing but fog and clouds, I don’t think Visalia has seen the sun in at least 3 days. Although this extremely depressing weather has blanketed Visalia, there are a lot of things to be excited about. With the official end of the very useless “Dead Period” that CIF enforces, baseball is officially right around the corner. Baseball season usually means a combination of sunshine and blue skies that does not include 105 degree heat. But as fun and as exciting for some people as that sounds, baseball isn’t here yet. Plus it’s hard to focus on other sports when you have a soccer team in full contention for a Valley title.
After entering last week with an overall record of 11-4; the El Diamante boys soccer team knocked off Hanford and Hanford West to climb up the WYL standings, and to cement a dominant 13-4 record. They jumped from 4th to 2nd in the WYL standings and are closing in on the mighty Rangers of Redwood. The scoring attack the Miners possess this year is one of the main reasons why they’re streaking towards the postseason. Entering Wednesday, the Miners have posted 25 goals and have let just 5 enter their own net in just 4 games of league play. Their offense is without a doubt among the best (if not the best) in the WYL and their defense is also cream of the crop.
Dakotah Ybarra continues to lead the Miner attack with 17 goals. He leads the WYL with 42 points and he’s tallied 8 assists along with his high number of goals scored.
Now let’s change the focus to a group of girls who have the opportunity to do the same thing that we saw from our football boys.
As many of you remember, 4 weeks into the football season the El Diamante Miners were 1-3 and looked awful. Their lone win came against a very under-talented Monache squad and they had gotten destroyed by Tulare Western and Union. But after that 3rd loss in overtime to Dinuba, a switch flipped. A big switch, for that matter. The Miners won every game they played the rest of the season until the Semi-Final game when they lost to, poetically enough, the Dinuba Emperors. Now it goes without saying that soccer and football are two completely different sports. But, then again, can they be so different that we won’t see another deep and very surprising surge from an El Diamante team that many people had written off for good?
The answer to that question is absolutely not.
15 matches into the season, the Miners have posted an overall record of 8-5-2. Technically, that really isn’t that bad. At this pace, the Miners should make the playoffs. But keeping this pace would be dangerous because that would give the Miners a lower seed, which also means some pretty long bus rides going to face a much higher seed on their field. And no one likes long bus rides. However, 15 matches is nothing. The Miners can be a perfect example of how it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. They have plenty of young talent complimented by strong senior leadership. They’ve been given the recipe for success, now all they need to do is mix the ingredients. If that happens, then it’ll feel like some massive deja-vu from football back in the fall.
When it comes to standings and statistics, it’s once again no surprise who stands on top; Redwood and El Diamante. One of the biggest and most fierce rivalries in the Central Valley will add many more chapters before the clock strikes midnight to end 2018. The Miners and Rangers have been in a gigantic game of “Tug-Of-War” ever since El Diamante opened its doors in 2002. This doesn’t go with just soccer or baseball or football, it’s literally everything. With that being said, I bet you can take a wild guess who stands in the top 2 of the boys’ WYL standings.
The Miners and Rangers have met early in the year. And in the early part of the season, the Rangers have gotten the best of the Green Sea in boys and girls. But the good news is, one match doesn’t make or break the season.
It’s not a secret, and it’s not a mystery. There’s a reason why Redwood and El Diamante are usually neck and neck in playoff standings. That’s what makes these matchups so interesting. As the playoffs lure closer to a reality, Redwood and El D games carry a lot of meaning. I mean, they usually do anyways. Even if it’s not a playoff spot or a top seed on the line, there will always be bragging rights. No matter the scenario or the outcome, there will always be a lot riding on the backs of El D and Redwood matchups
I don’t expect that changing any time soon. You shouldn’t either.