Prep Impressions: Feb. 28, 2012

I covered the Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley-Riverside La Sierra CIF-Southern Section Division 2 Semifinal Round boys varsity playoff game for The Press-Enterprise on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012, and came away thinking soccer can be crazy and cruel.

First, I have to admit that I’m a La Sierra alum. I spent all four years of high school there, from 1993-’97, and have written about the school before, but never the soccer program.

So much for a pleasant re-initiation.

La Sierra's Christian Salgado (19) skies for a header the goes over the bar in the second half on Tuesday. / Dwain Linden Photography

La Sierra led 1-0 after scoring right before halftime (pictured above) and held that lead for 37 of the game’s final 40 minutes. That is, until some unseen force grounded the Eagles and allowed Capistrano Valley to score twice in the game’s final moments.

It was bizarre. It was shocking. It was avoidable.

First, the bizarre. La Sierra had never been to a CIF-Southern Section semifinal. The fact that the Eagles were moments away from also achieving their first CIF-SS final gave me moment to pause, while the PK was being conducted by the ill-fated referee.

It was shocking when La Sierra keeper Victor Rodriguez saved the PK, and was just as much so when Capistrano Valley’s Kevin Baboiyan pounced on the rebound and scored.

It was totally avoidable, and for three reasons. 1) La Sierra could have done a better job, defensively, in those final few moments. 2) The Eagles could have scored more goals. 3) The center referee could have been in position to make the necessary calls. He relied on his assistant in assessing the PK, and did not see Capistrano Valley’s second goal come off the arm of Dylan Browning.

Fans on both sides had grown increasingly frustrated with the referee, which isn’t outside the norm but nevertheless, the tension was there.

After the game, a Capistrano Valley coach was reminded of Diego Maradona.

“Was that the hand of God!?!?” is what I heard a Capo coach say to Browning in the post-game celebration.

And the argument has continued, to my surprise, in the comment section of my article linked above. It’s sort of a spectacle, really.

As for La Sierra’s goal in the 39th minute…

… the ball appears to have wholly crossed the line, although its shadow suggests otherwise. Either way, photographer Dwain Linden got a great shot of senior striker Kenshiro Daniel’s 26th of the season.

It was to be the last goal of a historic season for the Eagles, one in which its ending was a true pinnacle (for better or worse) to a the careers of several outstanding players who constituted the finest roster ever assembled on La Sierra Ave.

Daniels emerged as an elite offensive threat, and senior midfielder Dominic Escalera’s physicality, pace and decision-making had him earning attention from at least one local four-year university following the game.

Capistrano Valley coach Jason Sorrell:
“I think (La Sierra) played a better game than we did. It was an ugly game but I think they played better than we did. I tell ya what hurt them; they scored that goal but I could see them just sitting back, and sitting back and sitting back and we just threw four guys up front and it wasn’t pretty, we hammered, we played direct. You could say luck but I don’t know man, I don’t know. Unbelievable. We played three in the back, pulled a guy out of midfield and we shoved another guy up front. We had four out front at the end. We just hammered the ball about and that was it. The penalty was handball. It was unfortunate. The kid didn’t have too much to do about it but hey, I’ll take it. I’ll take anything in that game because it was ugly.”

La Sierra coach Dave Eckenrod:
“Kenshiro Daniels (scored the goal). I believe it was a foot. We got a picture of it. One of our coaches got a picture of it crossing the line so it obviously was a goal. I still think we were pushing up fairly well. We were getting a lot of the ball. The referee was calling it very, very close so I still don’t know what the call was, but they got the penalty and we’re moving on from there. Then literally, on the next time down, the was their first look at goal. Extremely proud of my defense for the way they played today against a really good team. It’s huge (playing in a semifinal). To think that I started with five seniors means that we’re going to be ready to go come next year. Really excited that my players, my younger guys got the experience of getting this deep in the CIF playoffs. I am really proud of my seniors that were the core of my team this year. To go this far, this deep, has never happened at La Sierra for the boys soccer program. I couldn’t be happier. I never dreamed to go this far. I think once (the players) realize, the look back at what we’ve accomplished this year, I think there’s no other way to look at it other than positive. We switched off for 30 seconds out of, (the game) probably went close to 90 minutes today. We switched off for 30 seconds of that 90 minutes and that’s what cost us. I can already start to put a spin on that. You gotta focus throughout the entire game, the whole thing. We’ll be fine.”

Photos by DWAIN LINDEN / DWAIN LINDEN PHOTOGRAPHY

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