Andres Lua can't wait to get back on the pitch on Thursday night for many reasons.
For one, the Le Grand High boys soccer team has worked their way back to get another shot at a blue banner. The top-ranked Bulldogs will face No. 6 Waterford in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship game at Turlock High.
The game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. The game is part of a boys-girls doubleheader. Top-seeded Hilmar will face No. 2 Ripon for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship at 7 p.m.
The other big reason Lua is chomping on the bit to get back on the field was he was sidelined for Le Grand's dramatic 3-2 semifinal win over Encina Prep. Lua received two yellow cards in Le Grand's opening playoff game, which meant he was suspended for one game.
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"My knees were shaking the whole time," Lua said. "I was shivering. I wanted to be in the game so bad."
Lua watched as the Bulldogs have to overcome a 1-0 deficit and then sweat out the ending with the game tied 2-2 late in the match. It was a sophomore postseason call-up from the junior varsity team in Abel Velazco who delivered the game-winning goal in the final minute to send Le Grand back to the section championship game.
"We started out thinking, how are we going to play without him," said Le Grand coach Jeff Slaughter after the win. "Then we had other guys step up in his place."
The Bulldogs fell to Cristo Rey last year in the Division VII championship game 1-0.
Le Grand has been on a mission to get another shot at the section title this year.
"It's what we've worked for this year," Lua said.
Lua has been the Bulldogs leader.
The senior forward has scored 33 goals this season, which ranks 20th in the state and fourth in the Sac-Joaquin Section according to MaxPreps.
"I wouldn't have done it without the work of my teammates," Lua said. "They help me score all those goals. We work as a team to get that outcome. I never thought I would score that many goals."
Lua has had three or more goals in a game four times this year, including a six-goal effort in a 6-1 win over Denair on January 9th. Lua scored two goals in the Bulldogs' 5-2 overtime win over Amador in the playoff opener.
He scored one goal in the Bulldogs' 2-1 win over Waterford on February 9th. Le Grand is 1-0-1 against Waterford this season.
"Both games were really close when we played them before," Lua said. "It wouldn't be a surprise if this one was just as hard or harder to win. Both teams want it."
A win would give Le Grand it's first boys soccer section championship since 2001 and just the second in school history.
"We really wanted a section title," Lua said. "Now that we get a second shot, we want to make it happen."