Two Metro Conference teams were battling on the pitch for supremacy in the San Diego Section for the first time since 1985. It was a monumental occasion last Saturday at Cathedral Catholic High School and neither the Bonita Vista Barons nor Hilltop Lancers dared to disappoint, combining for an epic encounter that ended in a scoreless overtime draw and kicks from the mark to finally determine which team raised the championship trophy.
The fourth-seeded Barons (18-6-2) won the tiebreaker 5-4 over the second-seeded Lancers (24-3-2) to officially reign as 2010-11 Division II champions.
It was the first CIF title in two tries for BV coach Jason Murphy, who won the Class 3A championship in 1989 as a player for his alma mater. The Barons finished runner-up to Torrey Pines in 2005.
“Lots of respect to Hilltop,” Murphy said. “It was a great Mesa League final. It was epic. I’m very proud of my boys and very proud of Hilltop. It’s a tough way to win and a tough way to lose but we’ll take it.”
The Lancers entered the game ranked sixth in the state, 16th in the nation and finished on top of the Mesa League standings with an 8-1-1 record, with the team’s lone loss coming in the second-to-last game of regular season play to Eastlake.
Bonita Vista finished third in Mesa League play with two losses to Hilltop and a two-game split against Chula Vista, the league’s runner-up team.
Five of the six Mesa League teams qualified for the playoffs, with Chula Vista (14-8-3) advancing as far as the Division I quarterfinals and Mater Dei Catholic (8-11-3) advancing as far as the Division IV semifinals.
“It was a great year for the Mesa League,” Murphy said.
In this case, lots of respect to South County.
Whereas in football, when teams that are tied after regulation play in the championship game share the division title, the section employs a sudden-victory overtime period and then kicks from the mark, the more technically correct term for the vernacular “penalty kicks,” to decide a winner in the soccer finals.
Of the five boys title games played this year, two went to penalties (the Division II and Division III boys matches), while one girls final (Division III) also was decided on kicks from the mark.
Four other finals finished 1-0 in favor of the winning teams (Coronado in both Division IV boys and girls, Torrey Pines in Division I girls and Santa Fe Christian in Division V boys) with one decided in overtime. The Division I boys final featured seven goals but Rancho Bernardo shaded Torrey Pines just 4-3.
Only two of the 10 soccer finals were decided by two or more goals (Division II and Division V girls). This would suggest that this year’s allotment of championship games was fairly evenly matched.
However, both Salts and Murphy agreed that the best team does not always come out on top in the PK tiebreaker (KFM).
But it would be difficult to find anyone on the Barons who said their team didn’t deserve the first place division showing after playing the 16th-ranked team in the nation to a scoreless standoff.
Many players simply thanked the Almighty for their good fortune.
“This means a lot to win the CIF championship,” BV senior Junior Cardona said. “My four years in high school, I’ve been wanting to win it but we never got the opportunity. Thank God we got this win. He was with us.”
Last Saturday’s finals match-up was the third meeting on the season between the two Mesa League rivals, with Hilltop having captured the two previous contests by scores of 2-0 and 2-1. Murphy said his team was going to do everything within its power to ensure the Lancers did not sweep the three-game series.
“We’re going to get after it,” he said in a pre-game interview.
The Barons did just that.
Bonita Vista, with perhaps little to lose, pushed forward early and remained aggressive offensively throughout the remainder of the contest.
While the teams took turns probing forward, the defenses for both squads remained solid from the opening whistle to the final shirt twirling by the winners. Both goalkeepers — BV’s Alvaro Alvarez (nine saves) and Hilltop’s six-foot-four sophomore Adrian Zendejas (nine saves) — came up big when called upon.
The Lancers appeared to be riding the momentum late in the 15-minute sudden-victory overtime period but could not provide the finishing touch.
That was reserved for the Barons.
The first round of spot kicks favored Hilltop as senior midfielder Roberto Diaz scored and Zendejas turned a shot by BV senior Francisco Gamez wide right.
The Lancers maintained their one-goal advantage through the next three rounds as junior Jimmy Estrada, senior David Zendejas and sophomore midfielder-forward Steven Jaramillo each found the back of the net for Hilltop and seniors Andres Ruiz, Matt Hall and Paolo Macias did the same for Bonita Vista.
Fate chose to step in for the final two rounds of KFM.
Leading 4-3 in the tiebreaker round, junior defender Diego Vargas had a chance to clinch the victory for the Lancers with a goal. His shot to the left appeared true until it hit the inside of the bottom post and ricocheted across the goal mouth toward the opposite post, staying outside of the goal line all the while.
Vargas lay on his back and put his hands over this face in dismay.
Everyone in Manchester Stadium knew what was coming next.
Cardona scored for the Barons to tie the teams at 4-4 in the tiebreaker, thus necessitating an extra round of KFM.
Alvarez guessed correctly and blocked a shot by Hilltop junior Christian Vera to set up Bonita Vista captain Ramon Martin del Campo for the potential game-winning kick.
Martin del Campo’s hard shot bulged twine and the Barons were CIF champions.
“Fake right, bottom left … fake right, bottom left — practice that in practice,” Martin del Campo said. “I came out for the final PK and that’s a CIF championship, baby. I want to thank my teammates for that, thank my team and thank God.”
Following his winning shot, Martin del Campo ripped off his jersey ala Brandi Chastain in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, raced around the field and climbed atop a bench in front of the Bonita Vista stands, waving the shirt over his head while pumping his fists.
It was a moment to be captured on film.
The Baron faithful cheered deliriously.
Hilltop fans were left to simply applaud the effort of their team. After the Barons and their supporters had departed their side of the field, Salts and assistant coach Victor Vargas remained to personally talk with, congratulate and, in some cases, console, each Hilltop player.
“It’s not the result we wanted and it wasn’t the type of game we wanted to play,” Salts said. “We couldn’t find our groove today. It turned out to be a defensive game and both defenses played well. Their defense was solid and our defense had been solid all year.”
Officially, the game went down as a scoreless tie — the Lancers’ 15th shutout of the season (and the Barons’ 11th).
Salts noted that virtually the entire team’s defensive unit, plus its goalkeeper, return next season.
“I think we’re looking strong for next year and if we’re in this same position again, I know our team will be looking to play a different type of game because they now have the taste of defeat in their mouth,” he said.
Hilltop’s bid to make it a championship double-header fell through when the Lancers’ girls team fell, 4-3, to second-seeded La Costa Canyon on March 2. The Mavs roared out to a 4-0 lead, then had to hold on in the second half against a valiant Hilltop comeback. Marisa Espino, Maxia Espino and Memery Valencia each scored goals for Hilltop (15-4-4).
San Diego Section 2011 Soccer Finals
(2) Rancho Bernardo 4, (4) Torrey Pines 3. Records: Rancho Bernardo 17-5-1, Torrey Pines 13-8-5
(4) Bonita Vista 0, (2) Hilltop 0 (Bonita Vista wins 5-4 in KFM). Records: Bonita Vista 18-6-2), Hilltop 24-3-2
(11) University City 1, (1) St. Augustine 1 (University City wins 3-2 in KFM), Records: University City 14-8-0, St. Augustine 14-4-5
(1) Coronado 1, (2) Francis Parker 0. Records: Coronado 24-1-0, Francis Parker 17-3-3
(4) Santa Fe Christian 1, (3) Pacific Ridge 0. Records: Santa Fe Christian 9-11-4, Pacific Ridge 20-1-3
(1) Torrey Pines 1, (2) Poway 0 (OT). Records: Torrey Pines 20-2-4, Poway 16-8-2
(1) Westview 4, (2) La Costa Canyon 1. Records: Westview 16-4-5, La Costa Canyon 15-4-3
(2) La Jolla 1, (1) Cathedral Catholic 1 (La Jolla wins 3-1 in KFM). Records: La Jolla 14-4-3, Cathedral Catholic 15-7-4
(2) Coronado 1, (1) Bishop’s 0. Records: Coronado 12-6-4, Bishop’s 13-4-0
(2) Horizon Christian 2, (7) Tri-City Christian 0. Records: Horizon Christian 10-10-4, Tri-City Christian 8-9-8