SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. -- Two of SoCal's soccer powers will square off Saturday in the Lotto Sport Western Showcase final, and the backgrounds on how they got to the title match are quite interesting.
Servite (Calif.) is playing in the final despite not scoring a goal yet this tournament. The team has advanced through two rounds on penalty kicks following scoreless matches. On the other hand, San Clemente (Calif.), the host and highest-scoring team at this event, is playing in the final for the first time ever.
"Finally," laughed San Clemente coach Mike Pronier, who started this event six years ago. The concept behind the Lotto Showcase was to create a West Coast version of the old MAST in in Florida, and bring to San Clemente many of the national powers. Over the years, the Lotto event has attracted teams from Arizona, Florida, Lousiana, of course California, and this year Hawaii. During that entire run, San Clemente has been a nationally ranked program -- but never able to reach the final in its own event.
The Tritons finally delivered that honor on Friday night, edging Watsonville (Calif.), 1-0 on a brilliant far post strike by sophomore standout Nolan Grush. San Clemente needed to weather a late Watsonville rush to hang on for the victory.
"Watsonville is a good, good team," Pronier added. "I was really impressed with our kids' discipline and organization."
San Clemente's five goals this tournament makes the Tritons' the highest-scoring team at the event. And like Servite, San Clemente has yet to allow a goal.
The San Clemente-Watsonville clash had another interesting angle as it pitted to of the state's most successful and longest-tenured coaches. Pronier is in his 32nd year at San Clemente. Hedgepath is in his 50th year of high school coaching, the last 40 as head coach at Watsonville.
Servite (Calif.) 1, Torrey Pines (Calif.) 0 (PKs): Sophomore Merrick Cook made two saves in the shootout as Servite won in PKs for the second night in a row. Cook was called into action when the team's regular starter was out due to illness.
[Brophy Prep ca-m] (Ariz.) 2, San Luis Obispo (Calif.) 1: Anthony Hidalgo’s second-half goal helped Brophy rally for a consolation match victory. Kellan Barry, a SMU commit, staked San Luis Obispo to a 1-0 lead. Early in the second half, Charlie Cobb scored on a service from Francesco Montanile, a UC Irvine commit.
Saturday's matches start at noon with the third-place and championship matches live-streamed on this link. Saturday's schedule is San Luis Obispo vs. Kapolei, noon; Brophy Prep vs. Corona del Sol, 1:45 p.m.; Torrey Pines vs. Watsonville, 3:30 p.m.; Servite vs. San Clemente, 5:15 p.m.
Friday's Standout Performers
D Noah Anderson, Kapolei (Hawaii), So.: Anderson wins almost all balls in the air. Although Kapolei lost, the score could have been worse had it not been for Anderson's play.
D Diego Aplicano, Corona del Sol (Ariz.), So.: A left back, Aplicano was key in shutting down Kapolei's attack.
GK Lucas Berryman, San Luis Obispo (Calif.), Jr.: Berryman laid out for a great diving save to his right in the second half of Friday’s match with Brophy Prep. Berryman kept SLO in the match until Brophy finally broke through with a pair of second-half goals.
GK Merrick Cook, Servite (Calif.), So.: Cook stepped into goal when Servite’s starting keeper fell ill. Cook came up with two saves in the shootout to help Servite advance to the final. He’s a big, strong keeper and looks much older than a sophomore.
M Seb Flores, Corona del Sol (Ariz.), Sr.: Very composed on the ball and Friday night delivered a very strong all around game.
F Noal Grush, San Clemente (Calif.), So.: For the second day in a row, Grush makes the list of standouts. His far post, side-netting shot lifted San Clemente to a win and into the final for the first time ever.
F Anthony Hidalgo, Brophy Prep (Ariz.), Sr.: Hildalgo was very active in the attack and was rewarded with the game-winning goal. He won a lot of balls in midfield, helping Brophy get the better of the play.
M Jake Kosakoff, Torrey Pines (Calif.), Sr.: The midfielder dominated the early stages of Friday's game.
M Jeremiah Lopez, Watsonville (Calif.), Sr.: Lopez is one of Watsonville’s stronger players and it showed Friday after a so-so performance Thursday.
D Christian Mondragon, San Luis Obispo (Calif.), Sr.: Mondragon won a lot of balls and got SLO out of a lot of trouble throughout the match.
M Cypress Navarro-Acio, [Kapolei az-m] (Hawaii), Sr.: Navarro-Acio battles and works hard all game. He never takes a break and he has been Kapolei's best player through two matches. He plays the 6 or the 2 or 3 for club.
D Xavier Pineda, Servite (Calif.), Sr.: Pineda played holding mid in the first half and right back in the second. He really helped shut the door on Torrey Pines.
D Jacob Ryan, Corona del Sol (Ariz.), Sr.: Ryan has an outstanding work rate and played a key role in keeping high-scoring Kapolei off the scoreboard.
M Eduardo Serrano, Brophy Prep (Ariz.), Sr.: Serrano has a high work rate and doesn’t give the ball away. Two days on the Lotto stars list shows the value of this player to Brophy this year.
M Nelson Tabarez, San Clemente (Calif.), Jr.: Tabarez controled the midfield as San Clemente went long stretches of its match with Watsonville in total control of the play.
D Owen Underwood, Torrey Pines (Calif.), Sr.: Underwood is on the list for the second straight day, and has been one of the top players at this year's event. He organized the back that helped Torrey Pines shut out Servite.
M Eric Vazquez, Watsonville (Calif.), Sr.: The ball-winning midfielder never gave up and his hard work helped Watsonville create some scoring chances in the second half.
D Elijah Zelkind, Torrey Pines (Calif.), So.: Only a sophomore, this outside back has put together two strong showings.