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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
Through the first 57 minutes of its home game against undefeated and top ranked Desert Mirage High in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division VI quarterfinal game, the Valley Christian High boys soccer team was feeling good about itself. Thoughts of one of the biggest upsets in school history were on the minds of many.
But the Crusaders were held without a shot in the second half and Dante Delgado launched a long shot that got past V.C. goalkeeper Misha Marson in the 74th minute as the Rams came back for a 2-1 victory last Friday evening. The unranked Crusaders conclude the season at 12-7-3.
“At halftime we understood that we put ourselves in exactly the situation we wanted to be in,” said V.C. first-year head coach Andy Anderson. “We knew that we’re very talented in offset pieces and we knew if we could get a few, we could be dangerous. We also knew this was going to be one of the best teams we’ve faced all year long, and it will be. They’re number one in D-6 for a reason, they’re 21-0 now for a reason.”
V.C. was going toe to toe with the Rams in the first half, taking five shots on goal with the first coming just three minutes in when a header from senior defender Blake Christensen following a corner kick off the foot of senior forward Klay Solomon barely sailed above the crossbar. The Crusaders kept putting the pressure on and was the first to get on the board when a throw-in from Solomon went to junior forward Clay D’Amico where he tallied his 10th goal of the season and third in as many games in the 26th minute. It was the first goal allowed by Desert Mirage since Feb. 5.
While V.C. was nursing the early lead, the star of the first half was Marson, who was constantly coming up with one huge save after another. If it wasn’t a diving save, he would punch out a potential goal. Marson made six saves off of eight first half shots and another two saves in the second half. In 22 games this season, Marson allowed 22 goals and posted seven shutouts
“He’s been huge for us all year long,” Anderson said. “I watched him play last year and I was excited coming in to have him as our keeper. The work that he puts in really sets the tone for everyone else.”
But with V.C.’s offense going nowhere in the second half, the Rams got some momentum. In the 58th minute, Alejandro Pimentel was taken down in the penalty box on a questionable call and Fred Zaragoza converted the penalty kick for his team-leading 25th goal. The Crusaders were then hoping to at least extend the game into overtime, which was the case in their second round game against San Marino High two days prior.
The co-champions of the Olympic League, which was the fourth straight season the program has won the league, graduates half of its team. But the 10 underclassmen combined to score 13 of the team’s 37 goals this season and near future looks very good for a fifth straight league title.
“We are losing a lot of seniors,” Anderson said. “We do have a lot of underclassmen all ready to go. J.V. went undefeated in league this year, so there’s a lot of promising talent on J.V. We’re ready for next year and we’re going to be just as strong, if not stronger.”
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