Fri, Feb 07 2014 03:08 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
Hilltop and Chula Vista will represent Metro Conference boys soccer teams in the San Diego Section’s new Open Division playoffs this season. It’s an honor and a daunting task in the same breath.
The new division is reserved for the section’s elite teams, as defined by results over the past few seasons.
Joining the Lancers and Spartans in the eight-team division are Westview, Carlsbad, Poway, San Pasqual, Torrey Pines and La Costa Canyon. All eight teams qualify for the playoffs.
At the midpoint of the season, contenders for the inaugural Open Division title appear to be Westview (15-1-2), Carlsbad (13-3-2) and Poway (11-1-7), the teams with the top winning percentages thus far.
San Pasqual is 10-3-6, followed by Chula Vista (10-5-1), Torrey Pines (8-6-5), Hilltop (8-9-1) and LCC (3-7-6).
Westview is ranked first among section teams, followed by No. 3 Carlsbad, No. 4 San Pasqual, No. 5 Poway and No. 7 Torrey Pines.
Chula Vista coach Ruben Oliveira might have his own thoughts on the current section rankings after his team toppled then seventh-ranked Southwest, 5-0, on Jan. 24, edged Torrey Pines by a 2-1 score on Jan. 16, both in non-league matches, and played to a 2-2 draw against 10th-ranked Castle Park in Wednesday’s Metro-Pacific League opener.
He firmly believes his team deserves to be in the inaugural Open Division class.
“Definitely, it’s well deserved based on our results the last few years,” the CVHS coach explained. “We’ve had good teams in the past, and we have a good team this season.”
The Spartans faced a 2-0 halftime deficit on a pair of goals by CP standout Felipe Liborio but rallied with a pair of second-half tallies by Isai Aguila and Carlos Aparicio. The final CVHS goal came on a penalty kick to tie the game.
Liborio’s second tally also came on a PK as the hosts went up by two goals despite being out-played territorially by the visitors.
“That’s kind of how it’s been for us this year — dominate but not score as many goals as we should,” Oliveira said.
The Spartans host Sweetwater in a key Metro-Pacific League match on Friday. Kick-off is 3:30 p.m.
Oliveira feels good about his team’s post-season chances.
“We were ranked second in the county one year and lost in the quarterfinals,” the CVHS coach explained. “Sometimes having that first-round bye isn’t so good. I think our chances are good this year. We’ve had a lot of guys banged up lately. Hopefully, we can get healthy.”
Hilltop made back-to-back appearances in the section championship game in 2011 and 2012, dropping a tiebreaker shootout to Bonita Vista to cap the 2010-11 season and suffering a disappointing 2-1 setback to La Costa Canyon the following year.
The Lancers edged the host Red Devils, 2-1, in Wednesday’s league opener to move into sole possession of first place in the four-team standings.
“We have experienced tremendous talent over the years and have been blessed with an incredible new crop of players,” Hilltop coach John Salts said in reference to this year’s team. “We are running freshman, junior varsity and varsity levels this season.
“Our strong leading returner group consists of juniors Sergio ‘Rigo’ Santana, Victor Lopez, Abner Alatorre and Luis Alfaro, and seniors Russ Lopez and Josue Macias.”
The Lancers’ three new impact players include freshman Mathias Cien Mayer and junior Jesus Ponce.
Salts noted his team started the season strong with a 4-0 mark and advanced to the semifinals of both the Coronado and Grossmont tournaments.
Santana made an impression with six goals in his first five games.
Lopez and Macias each scored goals in Wednesday’s match at Sweetwater while Santana contributed one assist.
“Castle Park right now, I think, is the team to beat,” Salts explained about the 2014 league championship race. “Chula Vista started out kind of slow but has started to play well of late, and we’ve kind of cooled off somewhat. I think Sweetwater will be a thorn in everyone’s side, so it should be interesting to see how it all turns out.”
Hilltop hosts Castle Park on Friday. Kick-off is 5 p.m.
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