The Southwest High School boys soccer team continues to carry the torch for the Metro Conference after handily defeating the fifth-seeded Baldwin Park Braves, 4-1, in Tuesday’s quarterfinals of the seventh annual Southern California regional state playoffs.
The fourth-seeded Raiders (19-2-4) advanced to Thursday’s Division II semifinals at top-seeded Los Angeles Catholic (27-1-1), with the winner advancing to Saturday’s regional final at Warren High School in Downey.
Rafael Espinoza, the team’s season scoring leader, scored twice in Tuesday’s rout at San Ysidro High School while the Raiders also received goals from Jerry Mendoza and Bernardo Leyva.
Southwest led 3-0 at halftime. Espinoza started the scoring on a head shot off a cornerkick and Mendoza later made it 2-nil by slotting in a pass from a teammate along the ground to the far post.
Baldwin Park (21-5-1) scored on a penalty kick by Danny Vega in the 61st minute.
The Raiders had no idea what to expect from the Braves, having never seen them play either live or on film. However, Southwest head coach Giovanni Medina said his team’s strategy was to add an extra midfielder to their formation to slow down, disrupt and pressure the Braves’ offensive attack that had produced 84 goals on the season.
The victory against Baldwin Park was the Raiders’ ninth consecutive and 10th in 11 games (10-0-1).
“We just want to continue making history for our school,” Espinoza told a TV news crew on site.
Should Southwest knock off top-seeded Cathedral, the Raiders would play Saturday at 1 p.m.
Also receiving seeds in this year’s regional tournament were No. 2 Simi Valley Royal (23-4), No. 3 Canoga Park (21-1-4), No. 6 Coronado (22-1-2), No. 7 Bakersfield South (16-7-5) and No. 8 Inglewood Animo Leadership (16-6-6).
In other regional action on Tuesday, Canoga Park shut out Division II San Diego Section champion Coronado, 2-0, while San Diego Section Division I boys champion Carlsbad (18-4-4) upended third-seeded San Clemente, 4-3, in a kicks-from-the-mark tie-breaker after the teams had battled to a 1-1 draw through regulation and overtime.
Update: Southwest defeated top-seeded L.A. Cathedral, 2-1, in Thursday's regional semifinals on a pair of goals by team scoring leader Rafael Espinoza.
The fourth-seeded Raiders (20-2-4) will play second-seeded Simi Valley Royal (25-4) in the Division II championship game Saturday, March 15, at Warren High School in Downey.
Brandon Mejia recorded an assist on one of Espinoza's goals in Thursday's game; however, the Southwest coaching staff named goalkeeper Marco Beltran as the player of the game.
Espinoza enters Saturday's regional championship game with 27 goals in 26 games while Beltran has posted five shutouts in 13 game appearances.
Oaks Christian 3, High Tech High Chula Vista 0
The Bruins, seeded eighth in the Division III regional girls championship bracket, ended their season with the loss to the top-seeded Lions (19-4-4) in Monday’s quarterfinals.
Oaks Christian finished as the Southern Section Division III champion after recording a 2-0 shutout victory against St. Joseph on March 8 to wrap up play in the four quadrant 24-team playoff bracket.
High Tech Chula Vista (18-4-6) defeated Helix, 3-1, in the kicks-from-the-mark tie-breaker to win the San Diego Section Division III title, also on March 8.
The Lions advanced to Wednesday’s Southern California state semifinals.