Sports

SHP boys run out of gas and fall in CCS soccer finale

 

The Sacred Heart Prep boys soccer team went to extra time twice in four days this past week in the Central Coast Section Division III tournament. The Gators still managed to advance to the title game, but the added minutes appeared to take a toll in the end.

No. 8 Sacred Heart Prep allowed a goal in the fifth minute and could never catch up in a 1-0 loss to No. 2 Sacred Heart Cathedral in Saturday's championship match at Homestead High.

"I don't think we had much left in the tank, and it showed," Gators coach Armando Del Rio said.

SHP (13-3-7) was going for its second CCS Division III title in three years -- the Gators tied with Menlo School in the 2013 final, which was the first time the program won or shared a CCS title since D-III moved to the winter from the fall.

Del Rio was also attempting to win outright CCS championships as a player and a coach, having won a Division III title as a star senior at SHP in 2000.

The Gators beat No. 1 Pajaro Valley, 5-4 ,in penalty kicks last Saturday and then knocked off No. 4 Santa Cruz, 3-1, in penalty kicks on Tuesday after both games ended in 1-1 ties. But, the Gators got off to the worst possible start Saturday when SHC senior midfielder Ali Aldrees scored on a well-placed 25-yard shot.

"The fact that we were so tired and went down early, I think it was difficult to create any sort of chances," Del Rio said.

Sacred Heart Prep turned the ball over in the middle of the field too many times and struggled to maintain possession, which kept them from getting in a rhythm and put the back line under pressure.

Goalie Zach Haire kept the score 1-0 with two point-blank saves in the final six minutes, first stopping a 1-on-1 chance by Eloy Ortiz and then cutting the angle off on James Allison.

But SHP was never able to generate many scoring opportunities. The team had one good chance in the second half, but a header from Connor Johnston from about 10 yards out in the final minutes went wide left.

SHC finished with an 8-4 edge in shots.

"I think a lot of us are banged up and just tired," senior Derek Chou said. "I think it affected us today, but overall Cathedral played well. They possessed the ball really well and mostly dominated the overall play in midfield."

SHP also had to overcome an injury to fullback Juan Rascon, who sprained his ankle in practice on Wednesday. His absence Saturday required movement throughout the lineup.

It was yet another tough injury for the Gators, who lost two key players about halfway through the season -- Riley Tinsley, who played in SHP's undefeated CCS Open Division championship football team, and AJ Hamer.

The team struggled to overcome the injuries, going 0-1-1 in its final two league games and failing to win the West Bay Athletic League title outright for the seventh straight season. Still, SHP's fifth-year coach called the season "one of the best ever."

"We only lost three games, one was in the final, so I think it was fantastic," Del Rio said. "The CCS run I think was unbelievable."

"I think overall we just fought with resilience and determination (this season)," Chou added. "To end this way is just a bad feeling."

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