The Star-News


Hilltop Lancers secure No. 1 boys soccer playoff seed

Fri, Feb 24 2012 04:00 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents

There’s no doubt about it: Metro Conference soccer teams received their due respect at last Saturday’s seeding meeting.

Mesa League champion Hilltop (18-2-3) received the No. 1 seed in the Division II boys field while South Bay League champion Southwest (14-3-2) received the No. 2 seed in the Division III boys field. Both will host quarterfinal-round matches on Friday along with Mater Dei Catholic (14-5-1), which received the No. 2 seed in the Division IV boys field.

Mesa League champion Eastlake (13-3-2) received the No. 3 seed in the Division I girls field and Mesa League runner-up Bonita Vista (18-4-3) received the No. 3 seed in the Division II girls field. Both will host quarterfinal games on Saturday.

Hilltop will host eighth-seeded Valhalla (8-7-6) after the Norsemen eliminated ninth-seeded Southwest El Centro (12-9-2), by a 2-1 score in Tuesday’s opening round. Friday’s quarterfinal kicks off at 5 p.m. in the HHS stadium.

“It is definitely an honor to know that all the other leagues in our county voted us as the No. 1 team in Division II,” Hilltop coach John Salts said. “Our boys have been on an incredible run over the last two seasons, playing very good soccer and combining that with great team chemistry and hard work both in the classroom and on the pitch. As coaches, we are very proud of them. These young men are very focused on the task at hand, and for them, it is unfinished business. Coming so close last year has really set the tone for this entire season. These boys have really been motivated.”

The first-round bye definitely comes at the right time, the Lancer coach said.

“We have had some injuries to deal with down the final stretch of league play,” he said. “What this top seed has really done for us is given us a little bit of extra time to heal our injuries so that we take the field on Friday with our full squad. We are looking forward to some great soccer come Friday at home.”

Hilltop, last year’s Division II runner-up team, is led by the dynamic duo of Omar Hernandez (22 goals, seven assists) and Jimmy Estrada (10 goals, 22 assists). Estrada, last year’s Division II Player of the Year, has been sidelined by a recent injury but is expected to see post-season action.

Hilltop overwhelmed visiting Bonita Vista, 5-0, last Thursday to close out league play in a rematch of last year’s Division II championship contest. Hernandez finished the game with three goals while teammates Rigoberto Maciel and Steven Jaramillo each scored once. Goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas recorded the shutout win with five saves.

The shutout was the seventh for Zendejas this season.

Playoff pride
As a whole, a whopping total of 13 South County teams — 11 from the Metro Conference — qualified for year’s section playoffs.  They included seven boys teams and, impressively, six girls teams.

“The Metro Conference should be very proud with six boys teams being selected into this year’s CIF playoffs,” Salts said. “That is a great accomplishment for soccer in the South Bay. Don’t be surprised if you see at least a couple of these teams playing next Saturday in the divisional finals.

“South Bay area soccer has long been a hotbed for talent throughout this county,” Salts said. “Though rarely recognized, one cannot deny the fact that each year in the divisional finals for CIF there is usually a team from the South Bay. We as coaches, are very proud of the teams and players we have down here.”

Southwest will host No. 10 Olympian (12-9-1) Friday at 7 p.m. at Montgomery High School after the Eagles shocked seventh-seeded Santana (12-10-2) with a 5-2 first round rout in Tuesday’s boys openers.

Southwest enters post-season play riding the momentum of an eight-game winning streak. The Raiders topped Mar Vista, 6-1, last Thursday behind three goals from Francisco Ramirez and single tallies by Marcos Astorga, Carlos Ramirez and Luis Nunez.

In other boys quarterfinals, Mater Dei Catholic will host No. 7 Bishop’s (9-6-3) Friday at 4:45 p.m. while sixth-seeded Chula Vista (15-3-8) remains alive in the Division I playoffs after recording a 3-0 victory against 11th-seeded Otay Ranch (11-6-4) in a first-round game Tuesday played at Montgomery High School.

The Spartans, runners-up to Southwest in South Bay League play, will play Friday at 5 p.m. at third-seeded Poway (15-4-7).

Bishop’s advanced following a rather bizarre victory over Crawford that took two days and 52 total kicks from the mark to settle following a 2-2 overtime tie. The teams went 17 rounds in KFM on Tuesday before darkness forced a continuation on Wednesday and nine more rounds before a winner emerged on Matt Harris’ final kick.

Girl power
Eastlake will host No. 6 Grossmont (13-7-3) in a Division I contest at 4 p.m. while Bonita Vista will host No. 6 Steele Canyon (15-7-2) in a Division II match at 11 a.m.

Among girls teams, Eastlake is undefeated in its last 11 games (9-0-2). The Titans concluded league play last Thursday with a 5-1 victory at Olympian to finish 8-0-2 atop the Mesa standings and extend its league unbeaten streak to 24 consecutive matches (18-0-6).

This is the second Mesa League title for Eastlake, which previously captured the 2005-06 championship banner.

Bonita Vista, which finished 7-2-1 in league play, closed out regular season play with a 2-0 victory against visiting Hilltop behind goals from Kassy Castillo and Devon Roncoroni.

Corner kicks
Semifinals follow on Tuesday, Feb. 28, for boys teams and Wednesday, Feb. 29, for girls teams. Championship games are set March 3 at Serra and Mater Dei Catholic high schools.

South Bay League girls champion San Ysidro (15-7-2) saw its magical season end following a 3-0 loss to fifth-seeded Poway (10-7-3) on Wednesday.


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