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Budding rivals produce 1-0 quarterfinal cliff-hanger Phillip Brents | Wed, Mar 16 2011 04:21 PM

Soccer is a game unique to itself, especially come playoff time. One team can attack furiously while another can defend just as tenaciously … and the bounces do not always go the way of the favored team.

Such was the case in last Friday’s San Diego Section Division IV quarterfinal-round boys playoff match between Chula Vista High Tech High and host Mater Dei Catholic.

The third-seeded Crusaders carried the brunt of play throughout the pairing of private schools located a mile (at best) apart. But the 11th-seeded Bruins certainly had their chances on speedy counterattacks throughout the contest as well.

Things that do not show up in the box score: CV High Tech twice bounced balls off the crossbar, including the final shot of the game in the final second of regulation. The Bruins also were unlucky not to have received a favorable call on a potential penalty kick call with 15 minutes remaining in what at that time was still a scoreless match.

Mater Dei Catholic’s Memo Caballero finally put a shot past the Bruin defense with 10 minutes to play and the Crusaders held on for a narrow 1-0 victory.

CV High Tech fans aired out their lungs until the very last second to create an electric atmosphere.

Crusader coach Jorge Zavala admitted a rivalry could be in the making.

“We pretty much kept possession the first 20 to 30 minutes of the game but they would get some counter-attacks going,” said Zavala, whose team traveled to test second-seeded Francis Parker in Tuesday’s division semifinals. “There is kind of a rivalry between the schools. It seems that the kids who don’t come to Mater Dei go to High Tech. There are relatives on both teams.”

Now for the heroic aspect of the game.

CV High Tech has a student enrollment of 600 students and is one of three charter schools in the High Tech High mold, the other two schools being located in Point Loma and North County.

The soccer team does not have a dedicated field on campus.  Instead, the team practices in public parks and rents fields from other nearby public schools for games.

Coaches are parent volunteers. The team travels by private cars.

“We’re looking for any space in parks to practice,” CV High Tech coach Rafael Palacios said.

The Bruins, who are fielding their first senior class, qualified for this year’s playoff field by winning the Frontier South League with an 8-1-1 record. CV High Tech carried an overall 12-5-2 record into the 12-team divisional field — a testament, Palacios said, to the team’s heart, dedication and sheer love of the game.

The Bruins defeated the sixth-seeded UCSD-based Preuss School (Frontier North League champions), 3-0, in the opening round of the playoffs on Feb. 22 to draw the Crusaders. Diego Ornelas scored all three CV High Tech goals.

“We’ve done this without any practice field of our own,” Palacios said. “Mater Dei is a great team and they practice and play in this great stadium. We can only dream of having something like this.”

But greatness is measured in other ways.

Zavala’s team, meanwhile, has come far this season after losing two key players — one to graduation and one to the U.S. youth development national team program.

The Crusaders play in the rugged Mesa League, and the team’s 1-7-2 league record against Division I and Division II schools has made the team’s overall 8-10-3 record somewhat deceiving. Take out league play and Mater Dei sported a 7-3-1 non-league record heading into Tuesday’s match against Francis Parker (16-2-3).

“I think there’s more of a collective effort on the team this year, it’s more of a team game because we can’t rely on one or two outstanding individuals any more,” Zavala said.

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