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  • Riley Trojak

Tesoro Boys Soccer Makes School History with First Ever Trip to Final Four

This year Tesoro boy’s soccer made it to the final four for the first time in school history. Just last year, Tesoro boys soccer failed even to qualify for the CIF playoffs. In fact, it had been three years since the program even won a CIF playoff game. Tack on a record barely over 0.500, and a trip past the second round in the playoffs becomes even more unlikely. How was such an unlikely run pulled off?

Solid league play massively aided in the team’s qualification effort. With a second place finish and the most goals in league play, Tesoro was admitted to the tournament following a 5-0 home victory over Dana Hills.

Tesoro traveled to Garden Grove to take on the 17-win Santiago Cavaliers at their home turf for their first game on February 9. The match was exciting, finishing regulation 2-2 forcing extra time ─ a theme throughout their run to the final four. Despite the four goals in regulation, neither team was able to put one in the back of the net for the entirety of extra time meaning that a penalty shootout would take place.

Penalties are arguably the most dreaded part of soccer. Only rarely reached, they are known to be nerve wracking and tense. Two men and a ball 12 yards away from the net are all that stand between a euphoric win and a heartbreaking loss. But more so than any element of soccer, penalties equalize both teams; in a penalty shootout, there are no favorites.

Under all of the pressure and stress of a penalty shootout, Tesoro was able to come out on top 6-5 on penalties, advancing to the second round.

Just two days later, on February 11, Tesoro would play the second game of the tournament against the Ganesha Giants from Pomona, this time at home. Throughout the two, 40-minute halves, neither team would be able to score leading to the all too common 0-0 tie at the end of regulation. A second straight trip to extra time was necessary.

Most FIFA soccer matches follow an extra time model of two, 15-minute periods where the leader after both periods wins, regardless of how many goals are scored. But extra time in the CIF playoffs is different. CIF follows a golden goal model, where the first goal wins the game.

Golden goal extra time, unconventional as it is, is generally looked at as inferior to the multiple periods model. Yet, golden goal does one thing better than the multiple periods model: it causes chaos. Any team can win in golden goal, no matter how inferior, and the game can stop at any moment.

Tesoro ended it early, scoring quickly in the overtime period to win 1-0 and advance to the third round.

The third match was played on February 15 in LA at the No. 5 Glendale Nitros. Holding a 14-2-4 record and coming off of a major upset against No. 2 Harvard-Westlake High School in penalties, the Nitros were a great team that looked hungry to advance. And hungry to advance they were, as they came out and scored first to mount a 1-0 lead. But Tesoro wasn’t fazed: They came back and went up 1-2 before conceding another goal making the score 2-2.

The game was well on its way to a third straight overtime for Tesoro, until Glendale was awarded a penalty kick. Penalties at the highest level have a conversion rate well over 80 percent; the chances of advancing looked slim for Tesoro. But thanks to goalkeeper Yahir Canongo, the penalty was saved, giving life back to the boys.

Energized by the save and eager to make it count, the defense played lights out for the remainder of regulation and extra time, not allowing a single goal and forcing both teams’ second penalty shootout.

Tesoro managed to beat Glendale in penalties 5-2 as they scored every one of their penalties, and Canongo proved his earlier save wasn’t a fluke, saving 2 more penalties during the shootout.

The Titans found themselves amongst the top teams in the tournament in the final four. Their opponents were the No. 3 ranked Littlerock Lobos, No. 4 ranked Oxnard Yellowjackets, and eventual CIF champion No. 1 ranked Orange Lutheran Lancers. The Titans were ranked No. 11.

Unfortunately, the boys’ magical run to the final four ended on February 18 by No. 3 Littlerock High School by a score of 4-0 at home. Littlerock had outscored their opponents 9-0 in the three playoff games leading up to their encounter with Tesoro.

Even if no hardware was acquired, the camaraderie and shared experiences of every player throughout the chaotic tournament will be remembered by each for the rest of their lives.

“In the end it was a team effort,” said Senior John Ivanov when asked to share his thoughts on the run. “It took everyone coming together mentally and physically to draw up the strength and win each time.”

Rankings and scores provided by Image provided by @tesoroboyssoccer on instagram. The full tournament bracket can be found here


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