The Tulare Union Redskins and Tulare Western Mustangs were deadlocked in a stalemate for the East Yosemite League title before Tulare Union's Jordana Guy put extra emphasis on the phrase "Senior Night" with one ferocious swing of her leg.
Only one point separated Tulare Union (17-6-4, 9-0-1) and Tulare Western (16-4-2, 8-2) at the top of the EYL standings when Thursday's final regular season game started at Bob Mathias Stadium. For the first 22 minutes, that slim difference showed in the absence of any shots on goal or scoring chances for either side.
That's when Guy literally stepped up and gave the Redskins control of the league championship -- their eighth in a row.
Taking a pass from Lynzee Gilliland at the top of the penalty box, the senior midfielder came forward to drill a one-touch shot into the upper left corner of the goal.
"I'm really happy I made it because I've been working on that all year long," Guy said. "I haven't had many goals this season even though last year I had a lot more. The Western game is always a rivalry. It was just a thrill."
Guy returned the favor 12 minutes later when she found Gilliland on the wing, setting the junior forward up for a low line drive that seared into the box and through the goalie's legs.
From then on, the Redskins' eighth consecutive EYL title and undefeated league record were never in doubt. Tulare Union won 2-0.
"These never get old," Tulare Union coach Marshall Webb said. "I give all the credit to the girls. They fought hard for it."
After the opening 22 minutes played evenly and mostly at midfield, Tulare Union dominated the final three quarters of the game by controlling possession in Tulare Western's defensive zone.
Gilliland nearly set up a Redskin goal in the 31st minute when she won the ball on the left wing and skipped a cross through the box; but none of her teammates connected on the other end as the cross bounced harmlessly through the far side of the penalty area.
Samina Andrade clanged a free kick off the crossbar from just outside the right edge of the penalty box in the 61st minute.
But beyond the two goals and those two clear scoring chances, Tulare Union's dominance showed mostly in the middle 60 yards of the field.
Tulare Western played several long balls into the Redskin penalty area during the game's final five minutes, but all attacks were turned aside with relative ease.
"They [Tulare Union] were winning 50-50 balls. You could kind of tell they wanted it," Tulare Western coach Osama Hamid said. "They played harder tonight and they were the better team tonight."
Tulare Western is led by sophomore striker Anyssa Dominguez, but she was held scoreless in both games against the Redskins -- the Mustangs' only two EYL losses.
The group responsible for shutting Dominguez down is a back line of seniors who have played together as a varsity unit for three years and showcased their talent on Senior Night.
Tulare Union features 11 seniors on its roster, all of which were eager to celebrate EYL title No. 8 by showering their coach with a Gatorade tub full of ice.
"[The seniors] showed the fact that they put this program where it is," Webb said. "Every team is unique. This one has no superstars. This is just a group of girls that all work together to accomplish their goals."
Webb expects the Redskins to draw the No. 6 seed in Division I. Hamid couldn't care less where the Mustangs end up in Division II.
"Seeds only matter if you're a bird," Hamid said. "I don't care what seed we get as long as we can keep playing. Three of our four losses are to Division I teams. There's no shame in that."
As for the thought of coming up one game shy of knocking his team's rival off its eight-year reign over the EYL, Hamid doesn't dwell much on that, either.
"Titles don't mean anything," Hamid said. "At the end of the day, we played 80 minutes and they played 80 minutes. They're going to take a trophy home. We played a good game. That's all we care about."