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Shorthanded Valley Christian loses lead but edges Whitney in overtime

CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION BOYS SOCCER PLAYOFFS

By Loren Kopff

It was as close to a déjà vu situation as you could get when Valley Christian hosted Whitney in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division VI first round game last Friday. It was exactly one year ago to the date that these two schools on the opposite side of the city met in the first round at Crusader Field.

Last season, V.C. eliminated the Wildcats 3-1 and last Friday, the Crusaders had a 3-1 lead with 21 minutes left to play. After Whitney scored twice to send the game into overtime, V.C. sophomore defender Brent Van Meeteren scored off a free kick from senior defender Grant D’Amico just seconds left in the first overtime session, lifting the Crusaders to a 4-3 victory.

What makes the win more remarkable is the fact that the Crusaders played most of the second half and the overtime session a man short as senior defender Chandler Vos received a red card early in the second half.

“Whitney is a much better team than when we played them last year,” said V.C. head coach Sean Toth. “I think it was an even game. They knocked the ball [around] nice and so did we. We took chances and we capitalized on them and that’s the name of the game. The one who capitalizes on the chances is the one who wins.”

V.C. struck first when sophomore forward Clay D’Amico took a pass from junior midfielder Klay Solomon and scored just 11 minutes into the contest. But the Wildcats (8-9) appeared to dominate the majority of the first half, peppering V.C. sophomore goalkeeper Misha Marson for six shots. Two of those came with a minute of each other and from junior Aldo Najango while sophomore Edward Malacon’s free kick in the 34th minute was tipped up and over the cross bar by Marson.

Malacon redeemed himself two minutes into the second half when he converted on a penalty kick after senior Alan Jahic was dragged from behind in the box. But the Crusaders regained the lead in the 51st minute when Van Meeteren scored at the far post off of a corner kick from junior midfielder Quang-Lam Pham. Eight minutes later, the hosts increased their lead when Clay D’Amico raced down the left sideline and snuck in his team-leading 24th goal.

“Clay is a great player,” Toth said. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about the 11 [on the field]. We work as 11 as a team. He’s a great leader on the field. He works hard; puts in the time and effort in the training. Without the other boys on the field, we couldn’t do it.”

But the Wildcats refused to go away and five minutes later, Najango took a beautiful flick from his brother, sophomore Chris Najango, and put Whitney back in the game. Then with a minute remaining in regulation, Aldo Najango scored with the assist going to Jahic.

“The whole year, we’ve played this game with only 11 players that we can depend on,” said Whitney first-year head coach Nasser Sarfaraz. “And sometimes, it just takes a toll on your body. We made three critical mistakes on [their] last three goals.

“Aldo and his brother Chris are fantastic,” Sarfaraz later added. “They are the backbone of this team. Ask them to do anything on the field, it happens.”

Whitney took eight shots on goal in the second half and appeared to be on the verge of the upset when Marson had to save two shots from Chris Najango within a matter of seconds in the 86th minute. Then in the 89th minute, Marson saved another chance, this time on a free kick from Malacon. In all, Marson saved 11 of Whitney’s 16 shots.

“Misha pulled some great saves,” Toth said. “He’s a great, young future prospect for the game. He’s looking for a bright future ahead of him and sometimes the keeper comes big for you and that’s what you need. He’s come through for us all season. He’s one of the top defenders in the league and it wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes on the All-CIF first team for Division VI.”

V.C., which fell to top-seeded South Pasadena 2-1 this past Wednesday, managed 11 shots on goal, eight coming after halftime, but was whistled for 18 fouls to just six for Whitney. The Crusaders conclude their season at 10-8-2.

“We’ve been 10 men in the past but that’s the first time this season we’ve been 10 men, and we train for that,” Toth said. “We train for those situations. This was nothing new to us.”

In other boys soccer action, Norwalk blanked Vista Murrieta 1-0 this past Wednesday on the road to advance to the Division IV quarterfinals. The Lancers (16-5-1) have won 12 of their past 15 games and will visit third ranked Godinez today. The 16 victories are the most since the team went 16-3-2 in the 2008-2009 season and this will be Norwalk’s first trip to the quarterfinals 2010.

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