It was one-way traffic most of the afternoon for the Santa Barbara High boys soccer team on Thursday.
That was until the 69th minute, when Palos Verdes senior forward Jimmy Vogel scored off a counterattack to give the Sea Kings a 1-0 victory over the Dons in a CIF-Southern Section Division 1 first-round match at San Marcos High’s Warkentin Stadium.
It marked the first time in 12 years that Santa Barbara’s season ended with a first-round playoff loss.
“This one will haunt me forever,” Dons coach Todd Heil said.
Despite numerous scoring chances and strong play in the back and in midfield, the Dons were unable to get anything past Sea Kings goalkeeper Renato Cabagna.
“We didn’t finish our chances in the first half, and we reminded the boys at halftime that they can’t allow them to stay in the game,” Heil said. “We allowed them to stay in the game.
“If you look at the game, we made one little mistake in the back, and all of a sudden, your season is over. That’s Division 1 playoffs.”
Vogel pounced on that one Santa Barbara mistake.
His goal came after Dons keeper Connor Lambe got a piece of a 15-yard shot by Palos Verdes co-captain Luke Madden. Lambe, who had come well off his line on Madden’s shot, had the ball roll toward the goal line after he deflected it. Santa Barbara senior midfielder Jackson Wright, who was near the goal line, couldn’t clear it. Vogel then got just enough of his right foot on it from a yard out to put it inside the far post as he was falling to the turf.
“I don’t really know,” Heil said when asked to describe Vogel’s goal. “The funny thing was, it seemed like it was in such slow motion. I don’t even know how the PV kid got a foot on it to put it in the side of the net.”
Heil admitted he was stunned at the turn of events that ended his team’s season with a 16-6 record.
“I didn’t even think it was going to happen,” he said. “I’m looking at it and watching it, and I’m like, ‘we’re fine, we’re fine. We’ve been fine all game long.’ Ö The next thing you know, the ball squirts free and it’s in the side of the net.
“I, like probably everyone else in the stands, was completely befuddled.”
Santa Barbara’s first quality scoring chance came in the ninth minute, when sophomore midfielder Luisangel Jeronimo rifled a 25-yard half volley that was headed just under the crossbar. Cabagna, though, jumped as high as he could and deflected the ball off the bar to keep the game scoreless.
It was one of two magnificent saves for the Palos Verdes senior keeper.
Cabagna’s other brilliant save came in the 49th, when the Dons looked like they had a sure goal. After a cross in the box from the right side, Santa Barbara’s leading goal scorer, junior Juan Carlos Torres, had the ball on his powerful right foot as he was unmarked, 10 yards from goal.
Torres, who scored 21 goals this season, ripped it on frame. Cabagna, who was marking the near post on the cross, made a full-length dive to his right to stop it.
“(Torres) kept it down, he kept it low, and all of a sudden the goalkeeper makes this miraculous save,” Heil said. “I don’t know, is that one J.C. is going to want back? I have a feeling there are a couple he’s going to want back.”
There was no mystery to Palos Verdes’ strategy against a Santa Barbara side that possessed quicker, faster midfielders, and two dangerous strikers in Torres and Jeronimo.
The Sea Kings (10-10-2) were content to sit back on defense and hope for a healthy counterattack, or penalty kicks. It worked out to be the former for Palos Verdes, which won its third straight first-round road playoff match.
“They had their opportunities, and we got a crazy goal there,” Sea Kings coach Derek Larkins said. “I’m still not even really sure how it went in, but we’ll take it.”