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Del Oro soccer's playoff hopes dented by Rocklin

By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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LOOMIS — Rocklin High loaded up its backfield and double-teamed Del Oro’s offensive threat Kolby Mitnick all night. Coach Grant Depue’s plan to play to a draw worked perfectly for the Thunder in a pivotal Sierra Foothill League showdown between the two teams battling for the final playoff berth Tuesday night. The scoreless tie kept Rocklin one point ahead of the Golden Eagles going into their respective regular season finales Thursday. If the Thunder (15-6-2, 6-4-1 SFL) beat cellar dweller Nevada Union, they return to the Division II playoffs regardless of how Del Oro (7-6-4, 5-3-3 SFL) fares against second-place Roseville. “We had a rough couple of weeks there in the middle of the season where we were giving up a lot of goals,” Depue said. “The last time we played Del Oro they had five shots on goal and scored on three of them. The last couple of weeks we’ve been emphasizing defense and shutouts.” The Eagles need a win combined with a Rocklin tie or loss, or a tie and a Thunder loss, to make their first postseason appearance since 2007. “We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Del Oro head coach Dave Shiro said. “Roseville is not going to be easy to work with. It always happens at the last minute in the SFL. It’s soccer. You see this stuff all the time. It’s hard to stomach sometimes, I guess.” The speedy Mitnick gave Rocklin’s sophomore goalkeeper Zach Kammerer several scares throughout the night, but neither team could get lucky. Each squad narrowly missed finding the net on direct kicks and blistering corners in both halves. Rocklin midfielder Joey Haug’s low strike in the 65th minute cleared the crossbar and a leaping Alec Lyons in the Del Oro goal by no more than a foot. Three minutes later, Anthony Salazar and Conor Delaney headed a would-be Eagles score away from the goal after Kammerer was drawn out of the box. The Thunder, who found themselves in position to play for a tie after handing SFL leader Granite Bay its second loss the night before, were able to wait out the clock. “We tried to push forward, but they knocked the ball out quite a bit,” Shiro said. “It’s one of those things. They knew a tie was in their favor. We had our opportunities and you have to make good on those. We try to play every game like we need to win, and we have to.” The Eagles came into the game kicking themselves for tying the last-place Miners last week. “Once they tied Nevada Union we knew we would control our own destiny, and that’s a position we’re happy to be in,” Depue said. “If we go out and handle our business against N.U. we’re in. We don’t have our fingers crossed. We’re in control of our own fate.”