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Warriors roar back in last 10 minutes to win playoff opener, 2-1

There’s nothing like a comeback victory in a playoff opener to boost a team’s confidence for the rest of the postseason.

Carpinteria’s boys soccer team is experiencing that uplifting feeling after its 2-1 win over Arroyo Grande in a CIF Division 5 playoff opener on Thursday at Memorial Stadium.

Omar Vazquez and Muhammed Mehai scored three minutes apart in the last 10 minutes of the second half to erase a 1-0 deficit and move the Warriors (16-6-1) into a second-round matchup Tuesday against Perris, a 3-2 winner over Victor Valley. A coin-flip will decide the game site.

Vazquez tallied the equalizer off a nifty through pass from Edwin Elizarraras. He received the ball on the left side of the box and beat a charging Arroyo Grande goalkeeper Alex Montero in the 71st minute.

Mehai delivered the game-winner in the 74th minute. He knocked a corner kick from Elizarraras to Lalo Mejia, who smartly laid the ball back to Mehai for the left-footed finish, setting off a wild Carpinteria celebration.

“These guys have the determination that I haven’t seen on the team before,” Carpinteria coach Daniel Torres said. “That’s what carried us through the whole game.”

The comeback showed the resiliency of the Warriors, who fell behind after a turnover deep in their end.

Arroyo Grande’s Angel Rodriguez made Carpinteria pay for the mistake by ripping an uncontested shot over the head of goalkeeper Lalo Garcia for a 1-0 lead in the 68th minute.

With a boisterous crowd shouting encouragement, the Warriors stepped up their intensity and attacked with a vengeance.

“It’s a credit to our team because none of us put our heads down,” said Mehai of the team’s response after the goal. “I looked around and no one put their head down after going a goal down.”

Said Vasquez: “We didn’t expect it. I thought (the shot) was out, I thought it was over the net, but when they started celebrating it shocked us. But, our forwards, our midfielders, our defense didn’t get down.”

Torres said it’s all about trust.

“These guys have each other’s backs,” He said. “That’s the one thing we’ve talked about ever since that (4-1) loss against Oaks Christian (in the league opener). We don’t point fingers, we don’t get on each other. We support each other. We support the guy on the left just as much as we support the guy on the right.”

The Warriors got a stellar game from goalkeeper Garcia. In the first half, he came off his line to thwart a breakaway by Arroyo Grande’s Oscar Munoz. But his save in the second half was arguably the defensive play of the game for the Warriors. He leaped and punched a blistering free kick by Munoz over the cross bar.

“That was an amazing save,” said Torres.

Arroyo Grande’s defense also came up with some big plays against dangerous set pieces and long throw-ins by the Warriors’ Cameron Wagner.

“They weren’t giving us too many gaps,” Torres said of the Eagles (13-11-4).”They defended well, and their center back was really good. We had to rely on throw-ins and set pieces more than I like to, but we had them because we worked for them.”

He was pleased how seniors Mehai, Elizarraras and Wagner stepped up and showed leadership.

“They’re the heart and determination,” said Torres. “They’re just on top of it. The seniors were here last year and they definitely don’t want their season to end today. It definitely showed in the last 10 minutes.

“Coming back from 1-0 in the playoffs is not easy.”