Sat, Mar 12 2011 06:42 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The San Diego Section boys and girls soccer playoffs have kicked off and the Hilltop Lancers could provide a dose of double trouble for Division II teams this season after securing rare Mesa League championship titles in the same season.
The HHS boys team, seeded second in the division, will host Scripps Ranch in a quarterfinal match Friday at 7 p.m. at Montgomery High School. The Falcons improved to 15-5-3 after eliminating West Hills, 1-0, in Tuesday’s opening round.
The HHS girls team, seeded third in the division, will host arch rival Bonita Vista in a quarterfinal game Saturday at 1 p.m., also at Montgomery High School. The Barons (12-6-7) outlasted visiting Patrick Henry in kicks from the mark in Wednesday’s opening round after the teams battled to a 1-1 overtime draw.
The Lancers own the higher seeding position for both games but a home field made extremely muddy from the recent rains, and the chance for more inclement weather this weekend, forced the school to look for another venue with an artificial playing surface.
Other than that, both teams appear ready to take on all challengers.
“It’s been real fun coaching this team,” Lancer boys coach John Salts said. “We have a strong team chemistry and it shows on the field. We have an extremely talented team. We want to finish strong.”
Hilltop carries a 22-3-1 record into Friday's match after finishing up league play 8-1-1 with a 3-1 victory against Mater Dei Catholic on Feb. 17. Diego Valverde scored the opening two goals for the Lancers, who also received one goal from team scoring leader Josh Diaz.
Diaz tops the Mesa League champions with 15 goals, followed by Valverde with 13 goals. Goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas has 11 shutouts to his credit this season.
Hilltop enters the playoffs ranked 25th in ESPN’s Fab 50 national rankings poll and could be on course to meet 20th ranked Westview (16-2-5) in the Division II championship game.
Salts said the key for his team will be to not let that national ranking play too hard on his players’ minds.
Meanwhile, HHS girls coach Rene Ortiz is taking a more physical approach to this year’s post-season run. He feels his team has been lacking the proper conditioning the last several years. The Lancers have won five consecutive league titles but success in the playoffs has not matched that.
With 12 seniors on this season’s team, including seven starters, this year’s playoff showing could produce some dividends. Hilltop finished 8-1-1 in league play and sports a prodigious 16-2-4 overall record.
“We have a more mature team this year,” Ortiz said. “Most of the girls have been playing together for two years. This year’s team is the product of two years of work.”
A 2-1 loss to Eastlake on Feb. 15 snapped the Lancers’ eight-game unbeaten streak. But Hilltop put the finishing touches on a league championship the following day via a 4-0 win against Mater Dei Catholic. Marisa Espino scored two goals in the league finale while Nicole Wolfe and Breanna Bergado each scored once in support of goalkeeper Hannah Teague.
Jessica Carrillo and Memery Valencia add scoring depth to the team.
Senior co-captains Wolfe and Samantha Martinez both realize the special bond the 2010-11 team has and would like to capitalize on it in the playoffs.
“We want a ring,” they chimed in unison.
© 2009 The Star-News