May 24, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Santa Ana captures eighth league title in last nine seasons with win over Estancia

Santa Ana forward (No. 26) Angel Romero celebrates with his teammates after his goal in the first two minutes gave the Saints the early lead in Monday’s 3-1 win over Estancia. (Photos: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone).

Before Monday’s early evening contest against Estancia, the Santa Ana seniors were determined to walk out of Eddie West Field with an Orange Coast League championship with one game in hand.

It only took the attack two minutes to get the ball rolling for the hosts as they pulled ahead when junior forward Angel Romero scored the first goal for the Saints (12-3-5, 8-0-1) who defeated the Eagles (6-11-2, 6-2-1) 3-1 to claim the eighth league title in nine years for the program. It is Santa Ana’s 29th league title.

Romero kicked a well-placed shot to the left side of Estancia’s goalkeeper Jairo Aguilar, after Brian Mendez-Maravilla set him up with the assist.

“Angel’s early goal was key. It settled us down,” said Santa Ana Coach Joe Peñaflor. “We have not scored many early goals this season. So, it was a luxury for us to take the early lead.”

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

Santa Ana took the reigns of the game from that point on, and through runs by the wingers and creative midfield play kept Aguilar busy up until the 16th minute, when he had to be substituted by teammate Ceasar Pedroza.

The Eagles attempted to make a game of it and through long balls, throw-ins and corner kicks kept the Saints defense and goalkeeper Randy Guerrero on the lookout.

Estancia’s offensive spark faded as the halftime break neared, and Santa Ana managed to add a few more shots and headers near Pedroza’s net, but the 1-0 lead held up until the break.

“I thought they came out with a lot of energy in the beginning of the game,” said Estancia Coach Robert Castellano. “They scored an early goal and we were a little shellshocked. In the second half we started coming out with a little more composure and started pressing them with two center forwards. Kept our forwards high so we could counter them.”

Estancia’s high pressure would misfire as Santa Ana would score two goals in quick succession when Mendez-Maravilla scored on freekick that bent past Pedroza for the 2-0 lead.

The Saints added another goal when senior forward Andrew Martinez capitalized on a cross that came off an Eagles’ turnover to extend the lead to 3-0. Meanwhile forward Brandon Garcia scored Estancia’s lone goal on a breakaway, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Saints from celebrating the OCL title.

The Saints had won seven league titles in a row up until 2021’s shortened season, when Santa Ana finished third in the Orange Coast League.

“We know it (that playoffs) will be tough, but if we continue to play solid defense and finish our chances, we feel we can compete with the teams in (CIF-SS) Division 2,” said Peñaflor. “For now, we want to finish league (against Costa Mesa) on a strong note and carry that momentum into the playoffs.” 

In spite of the loss Estancia will finish second in the OCL which leaves Castellano proud of his team’s performance thus far in the season.

“We grew as a team as the season went on. We definitely showed a lot of maturity in the league and finally started to play with one another and understand each other’s roles and responsibilities. It was very fun to watch.”

—Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone