SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. -- A running joke among coaches is that Mike Pronier and San Clemente are wonderful hosts for the Lotto Sport Western Showcase, in part because all of the trophies leave with the visiting teams.
That's no longer the case.
San Clemente (Calif.) capitalized on an opportunistic score early then displayed physical, dominating defense to hold on for a 1-0 victory over Servite (Calif.) in a clash national powers Saturday night in the title match.
San Clemente entered the tournament ranked No. 9 in the SIMA FAB 50 and ran through this event not allowing a goal. Servite, which started the week at No. 20, went 1-1-1, didn't score a goal but was every close to winning a title.
"We created this event to bring in the best teams," Pronier said. "After the first year, I realized it wasn't going to be an easy journey to get to a final. I'm just happy we got to the final, but to go 3-0 [against this competition], it shows a lot of promise for this season."
On the way to hoisting its first Lotto Sport Western Showcase trophy, San Clemente shut out Kapolei (Hawaii), a projected state title challenger in Hawaii, and Watsonville (Calif.), a storied Northern California program that has amassed 34 league titles and 11 section titles in the last 50 years.
The game-winning goal on this crisp December evening came less than three minutes into a match that was expected to be a defensive struggle. A clearance attempt by Servite ended up at the feet of Asa Gibson, a former Development Academy player who returned to high school soccer this season to bolster an already strong San Clemente lineup. Gibson said he recognized what was happening, knew he was faster than his defender, made a move to create space and unleashed the shot that send the crown into a frenzy.
"After I committed (to UC San Diego), I knew it was time to come back [to San Clemente] and be part of something like this," Gibson said.
The early strike put San Clemente in control, but that simply meant needing to fend off a dangerous Servite attack.
"We needed to stay mentally strong for 77 minutes and we needed to remind ourselves of that," Pronier said. "As the game goes on, the more intense it got. [Servite] pushed hard and we had to match that."
The game certainly hit a high intensity level in the second half as yellow cards started to fly -- three on the two teams' staffs, at least five on the field to players and even one that was directed toward the press box.
The final whistle sparked an onfield celebration by San Clemente players, while Servite players sunk to the ground, losing in the Lotto final for the second straight year.
In other Saturday matches:
Torrey Pines (Calif.) 2, Watsonville (Calif.) 0: In a match of few scoring chances, Torrey Pines received two big breaks in winning the third-place match. In the first half, Torrey Pines was awarded a penalty kick and Olivar Brandrup converted for a 1-0 lead. Late in the regulation, Watsonville's keeper left the penalty box to defend on a play and Torrey Pines' Frankie Garton rolled a shot from 20-25 yards out into an empty net to clinch the result.
Brophy Prep (Ariz.) 3, Corona del Sol (Ariz.) 0: In a clash of Arizona programs, Brophy received a pair of goal from Logan Abele to win the consolation match. Charlie Cobb scored on a header sandwiched between Abele's goals. Brophy finished 2-1 at the event, while Corona del Sol finished 1-2.
San Luis Obispo (Calif.) 5, Kapolei (Hawaii) 2: San Luis Obispo scored three goals in a matter of a couple minutes to break open what was a 1-1 match en route to a victory in the seventh-place contest. SLO went 1-1-1 at the event, while Kapolei went 0-3. Cypress Navarro-Acio gave Kapolei a 1-0 lead with the team’s first goal at the event. Barry tied it at 1. The scoring binge started with a strike by Moises Herandez, followed by a goal from Barry and a penalty kick score from Brendan Rattigan. Eduardo Torres made it 5-1 SLO before Jayden Adkison capped the scoring with a late goal for Kapolei.
F Nelson Tabarez, San Clemente (Calif.), Jr.
M Asa Gibson, San Clemente (Calif.), Sr.
M Jake Kosakoff, Torrey Pines (Calif.), Sr.
M Jeremiah Lopez, Watsonville (Calif.), Sr.
M Cypress Navarro-Acio, Kapolei (Hawaii), Sr.
M Eduardo Serrano, Brophy Prep (Ariz.), Sr.
D Reyes Carbajal, Corona del Sol (Ariz.), Jr.
D Xavier Pineda, Servite (Calif.), Sr.
D Owen Underwood, Torrey Pines (Calif.), Sr.
GK Lucas Berryman, San Luis Obispo (Calif.), Jr.
Championship Match MVPs: Trevor Bay of San Clemente, Xavier Pineda of Servite
GK Nick Bello, Torrey Pines (Calif.): Bello organized the back and made plays the few times Watsonville put him under pressure. He was among the most impressive keepers at the event, giving up one goal in 240 minutes of play.
M Jacob Flores, Corona del Sol (Ariz.), Sr.: Flores is all over the field. Incredible work rate. He was involved in the attack and checked back to play defensively, as well.
F Asa Gibson, San Clemente (Calif.), Sr.: After two years of Academy ball, Gibson has returned to high school and is a difference-maker. He scored the opening goal in the final, and was dangerous every time he had the ball.
M Jeremiah Lopez, Watsonville (Calif.), Sr.: Incredible work rate and got up and down the field. Every coach whose teams played Watsonville spoke highly of this do-everything midfielder.
M Elvis Mensah, San Luis Obispo (Calif.), Sr.: Mensah is another repeat member of the daily standouts list. His unselfish play led to one goal.
D Christian Mondragon, San Luis Obispo (Calif.), Sr.: For the second day in a row, Mondragon was a standout performance for SLO. The defender kept Kapolei in check after a first-half goal. Kapolei’s second goal came after San Luis Obispo had gone to the bench.
M Cypress Navarro-Acio, Kapolei (Hawaii), Sr.: Navarro-Acio capped a strong performance at the event by scoring Kapolei’s first goal.
F Mo Ndiaye, Corona del Sol (Ariz.), Sr.: Ndiaye had his strongest performance on the final day of play.
D Xavier Pineda, Servite (Ariz.), Sr.: Defensive standout was named the championship match team MVP. Servite allowed only one goal during the tournament.
M Eduardo Serrano, Brophy Prep (Ariz.), Sr.: Serrano was Brophy’s other all-tournament selection and he had a strong performance Saturday.
D Ben Underwood, Torrey Pines (Calif.), Sr.: This uncommitted senior is Mr. Steady. He won everything in the air, has good touch and is fast.
D Elijah Zelkind, Torrey Pines (Calif.), So.: Only a sophomore, Zelkind, a right back, got Torrey Pines out of a lot of trouble.