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Heartbreak for Santa Ana as lead, title get away
CORONA – Its run was improbable.
Santa Ana’s boys soccer team had played the role of road warrior to perfection.
After three straight road shutouts to advance to the CIF-SS final, it looked as though the Saints would ride their back line all the way to the Division 2 title.
In its final test, Santa Ana did not hold up. The Saints watched a two-goal lead fade away in the championship game as La Quinta of La Quinta rallied for a 3-2 win Friday night at Corona High.
“It was difficult because we only had one home game,” said Saints coach Joe Penaflor of the playoff run. “The kids just played their hearts out every game this year. We were still battling right down to the wire and came up a little short.”
Santa Ana, the Golden West League champion, was seeking its first division crown since 1991. The Saints (20-5-1) were playing in their second final under Penaflor, who also took the team to the last round in 2009.
It took Santa Ana just eight minutes to establish a 2-0 lead. Oscar Navarro delivered the first goal, and he set up the Saints’ second score with a crisp through ball to Ezequiel Morales.
The Saints bench was flush with excitement, but it was tempered almost immediately. Andrassy Teran converted a corner kick from Adam Lopez in the 12th minute for La Quinta’s first goal. Three minutes later, Jesus Avalos made his man miss on the left side line before finding Lopez for the tying score.
“We thought we had it. We got overconfident, and they had really good set plays,” Navarro said of La Quinta’s comeback. “Set plays are a backbreaker.”
Santa Ana had a few chances to retake the lead in the second half. Flaviano Perez was able to get behind the Blackhawks’ defense twice, but he could not chip the ball past Sebastian Ascencio and into the net.
The Blackhawks (23-4-2) capitalized on a free kick in the 60th minute, with Jared Ortiz delivering the winner.
La Quinta’s three goals marked a season-high allowed by the Saints.
“From the time we hit league, we were a very dangerous team,“ Penaflor said. “We barely gave up goals. The three goals we gave up just turned out to be too many today.”