SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. -- Corbin Mercado plays defender -- sort of.
The 6-foot-2 Loyola Marymount commit has the green light to get involved in the offense, and his play Friday night -- at both ends of the field -- helped Servite (Calif.) advance to the Lotto Sport Western Showcase final for the second straight year with a 3-1 win over Paramount (Calif.).
Mercado converted a penalty kick late in the first half that changed the complexion of the game and then netted the clincher, making it 3-1 in this battle between a pair of FAB 50 Top 10 teams. Servite entered the match ranked No. 4 and Paramount was No. 10.
Oliver Meza, against the run of play, gave Paramount a 1-0 lead midway through the first half. It appeared Paramount was going to hold that lead until that half but Servite caught a break. A hand ball in the penalty box against Paramount gave Servite a penalty kick. Mercado picked up the ball and headed to the spot, where he converted to tie the match at 1 with less than a minute left in the half.
Zuriel Silva gave Servite a 2-1 lead and then Mercado scored again for the final margin.
"Coach [Jon] Spencer has given me the freedom [to move up], and I appreciate that," Mercado said with a laugh. "Because he doesn't like his defense being messed with."
San Clemente controlled large portions of the yellow-card heavy match that turned physical in the second half. Yet, Auburndale was able to hang on, thanks in large part to Serman, who had a couple game-saving stops.
"We needed that," Auburndale coach Guy Jennings said. "That was a gut-check win. [San Clemente was] better than us for large parts of the game."
San Clemente was rewarded early when Tristan Weber gathered a rebound and instead of taking a shot into traffic, the Portland-bound senior laid off a perfect pass to Blake Bowen, who slotted home the first goal for a 1-0 lead about 20 minutes into the match.
The match stayed that way until Dante Lavigne scored in the second half to draw Auburndale even.
In the shootout, the teams were tied at 3 through four rounds. In the fifth round, Serman stopped a shot by San Clemente, and Noah Stephens converted for the Bloodhounds, setting off a celebration.
St. Paul's (La.) 2, Watsonville (Calif.) 0: For three years, St. Paul's has traveled to national tournaments and advanced. But on Friday in San Clemente, the Wolves actually won a match in regulation. Colin Moser scored six minutes in, running onto a perfect pass by Conner Walmsley, and James Bryant added a goal about 20 minutes later as St. Paul's advanced to Saturday's fifth-place match.
In two trips to the Montverde Academy Soccer Tournament, St. Paul's went 3-3 with all three wins coming in shootouts.
"I'll take this," St. Paul's coach Sean Moser said, after having a laugh about the team's previous need for PKs to advance. "This was a good win over a good team from California. But it still shows us what we need to do to improve. I told the guys, I felt better about of the second half in defeat (Thursday night, a first-round PK loss to Paramount) then I felt about our second half today in a win."
The win gives Buchanan a 3-0 all-time record against Arizona opponents, all at the Lotto Sport Western Showcase.
Preston Grayson gave Corona del Sol a 1-0 lead 24 seconds into the second half with a strike in the upper corner of the goal from 20 yards out.
Wilkins, on one of Buchanan's few offensive chances, sped past a defeated on a breakaway and evened the match, and only nine minutes later
Ferguson scored the game-winner from distance.
Friday's Standout Performers
F Oliver Meza, Paramount (Calif.), Sr.: Meza netted Paramount's only goal in a loss to Servite. He attacked well and got his teammates involved, as well.
F Jordan Wilkins, Buchanan (Calif.), Jr.: Wilkins has exceptional speed, which came in handy when he was sprung for a breakaway for what proved to be the game-tying goal. He also got behind the defense a second time for as dangerous chance.
M Alex Gonzalez, Watsonville (Calif.), Sr.: Gonzalez was one of the few Watsonville players who seemed ready for the challenge by St. Paul's. Generally a forward, Gonzalez played in the midfield Friday where he fought hard for balls and usually won them.
M Preston Grayson, Corona del Sol, Sr.: Grayson nearly did not get the chance to play Friday. The official ruled the bubble wrap he has been wearing the entire season to protect what is a broken finger was not adequate enough. A quick search in the San Clemente training room found adequate padding and Grayson was allowed to play and proved to be an instant impact player. He scored Corona del Sol's only goal with a well-struck ball in the upper left corner. He also created a few chances for his teammates.
M Colin Moser, St. Paul's (La.), Sr.: Moser scored the first goal and applied a lot of defensive pressure as a midfielder.
M Noah Sims, Auburndale (Fla.), Jr.: Sims simply brings it every night. He never quits and plays hard. Although he did not score Friday, he came close.
M Marc Trejo, Servite (Calif.), Sr.: Trejo simply dominated in the midfield play. He makes the top performers list for the second straight day.
M Conner Walmsley, St. Paul's (La.), Sr.: Walmsley served up an assist on the first goal. He was very creative throughout the match, which helped St. Paul's hold most of the possession and create all of the dangerous chances.
M Tristan Weber, San Clemente (Calif.), Sr.: Weber was the most dangerous player on the field. His heady pass to Blake Bowen led to the only goal for San Clemente. Weber served up dangerous crosses on corners, and his direct kicks put Auburndale under pressure.
D Kelvin Juarez, Auburndale (Fla.), Sr.: The right back was very consistent and drew the foul that led to Auburndale's only regulation goal.
D Corbin Mercado, Servite (Calif.), Sr.: The Loyola Marymount commit became the first player to score twice in a game at this year's Lotto Sport Western Showcase. The 6-2 senior anchors a strong defense but has the freedom to get forward, and Friday he had a header that glanced off the post, later converted a penalty kick and cashed in on a second goal to secure the win.
GK Tyler Serman, Auburndale (Fla.), Sr.: Serman and Dawson Hinkle alternate matches for Auburndale, and Friday was Serman's turn and the shot-blocker delivered. He came up with several key stops to keep Auburndale in the game, then delivered a pair of saves in the shootout to win it.
GK Oscar Sierra, Paramount (Calif.), Sr.: Despite playing in a 3-1 loss, Sierra delivered another stellar performance. Exceptionally athletic and very quick reaction time helped Sierra turn away several Servite scoring chances.