May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Early mistakes cost Santa Ana and Loyola wins 3-0 in Division I quarterfinals

Loyola defender David Merille and Santa Ana’s Paul Carillo jump for a 50-50 header in the second half of the CIF Division I quarterfinals at Santa Ana Stadium Tuesday afternoon. (Photos Courtesy: Fernando M. Donado, for OC Sports Zone)

Santa Ana High’s boys soccer team beat Loyola 2-1 in the season opener on Dec. 4.

Tuesday afternoon it was the Cubs who got the final say as they defeated Santa Ana 3-0 in front of a big home crowd that filled the stands of Santa Ana Stadium, and eliminated the hosts in the quarterfinal round of the CIF Division I playoffs.

Loyola moves on to the semifinals on Saturday vs. Mission Viejo at home.

To see the slide show, please click on the first photo

Loyola (21-2-3) got going early as senior forward Grayson Doody capitalized on a Santa Ana (20-4-3) defensive breakdown and scored in the opening minutes of the first half.

“We let them get that early goal. It’s hard to beat a tough team like that when they are up early,” said Santa Ana Coach Joe Peñaflor. “You let them lock up in the back with the big strong kids they have and very athletic, and of course very well coached.”

The Saints attempted to get an equalizer from that point on and applied hefty offensive pressure on the Cubs’ backline, but lack of clinical finishing and a valiant defensive effort from Loyola kept the shutout going for the visitors.

“We defended really well. We knew we had to play solid defense because their forwards are very very talented. We’ve seen them go around many defenders and create opportunity after opportunity,” said Loyola Coach Chris Walter. “Our back four and our midfielders defended outstanding today.”

Santa Ana attempted to break down the compact Loyola back-four with long range shots and crosses into the box, but its attempts were either wide, cleared or saved by the visiting goalkeeper Zach Driscoll, who made an impressive save off a free kick from about 35 yards away from goal by Ceasar Zamora midway through the first half.

“He (Driscoll) had a great save on that one. I think it was deflected and he was able to deflect it wide, and he also had a couple of big saves in the second half for us. He is coming into his zone a little bit which is good right now,” added Walter.

In the second half the roles got reversed as it was Loyola who looked the most dangerous when Santa Ana opened up gaps in hopes to achieve the equalizing goal that never arrived as the goal attempts from Diego Anaya, Saul Ortuño and Paul Carillo were off the mark or well contained by the visitors’ defense.

“I think when it got a little bit later on into the game when we had to start throwing numbers forward and adjust our formation that kind of left more openings for them, but at the same time we had to find a way to get more opportunities and at least try to find that equalizer which we couldn’t quite find it today,” said Peñaflor. “The guys played hard. They were definitely hustling down the field and recovering the ball to get it up the field.”

It was during a corner kick setpiece play midway through the second half that Loyola’s midfielder Will Valentine headed in the second goal of the game when he anticipated the Santa Ana defense and buried the goal into the net in spite of the diving efforts goalkeeper’s Pablo Rea.

It was the junior Saints goalkeeper who came up big for the Saints in the later minutes of the game when he blocked a one-on-one breakaway by the Loyola attack, keeping their hopes alive.

The Cubs put the game away in the closing minutes of the match when Michael Maloney capped in a lethal team play that put an end to the Saints’ season.

“We had a lot of highlights this season. A lot of performances this season individually and of course team wise,” said Peñaflor who earned his 300th career victory last Jan. 22. “We had a lot of adversity that hasn’t been mentioned much by the press. We had a number of players that we expected to play 20 games, and they literally only had about four or five including the playoffs due to injuries to key seniors.”

Santa Ana went undefeated in the Orange Coast League (8-0-2). Meanwhile, Loyola (ranked No. 22 in the country) also went undefeated in the competitive Mission League (11-0-1).

“They are a phenomenal team (Santa Ana). They could have easily been in the final four. I don’t know who we’re playing next, but I know it’s going to be a battle as well. They gave us all we could handle today for sure,” Walter concluded.

-Courtesy Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone