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Valencia completes historic season with victory
PLACENTIA – Finishing this season undefeated wasn’t a goal for Valencia’s boys soccer team, but as one win came after another, it turned into the Tigers’ focus.
Soon, it became a real possibility with just one match standings in Valencia’s way – Thursday’s regular season-finale against Empire League rival Western.
And in the end, history was made.
Alexis Martin Del Campo scored a goal in the first half and A.J. Arcilla finished with three saves to post his sixth consecutive shutout as host No. 3 Valencia beat the Pioneers, 1-0.
The Tigers (21-0-2, 9-0-1) have finished 10-0 in league before, but this is the first time they have gone through a season without losing a match.
“The school kind of got behind us a bit, and it was something that started to come up constantly with the staff and the students and the players,” Valencia coach Barry Gardner said. “We keep talking about how we can’t let our heads get to big. We have to focus on the moment instead of expecting things to happen.”
Even though Noah Engstrom ranks in the top 10 in the county with 15 goals, Valencia’s strength is its defense.
After Thursday’s shutout, the Tigers have only given up three goals in 10 league games and two of them came off of penalty kicks.
“They trust each other. They step smart,” Gardner said. “And if they do get off a shot, we have A.J. in goal. He came up with three great saves tonight.”
Two of those saves, prevented the Pioneers (9-5-6, 5-4-1) from tying the game in the final 15 minutes. Max Galvan and Julian Ochoa both tried to flick in a free kick, but Arcilla stepped in front of both shots to lower his goals against average to 0.304.
“If one guy (on defense) gets beat,” Gardner said, “We have two guys that track back in. They are solid.”
Gardner said this team is better than the one that won the CIF-SS Division 2 championship in 2008-09 season because it “has more weapons.”
This season, 13 different players have scored for Valencia. Martin Del Campo knocked redirected a pass from Steven Cardozo in the 18th minute to score his 11th goal of the season.
“All of forwards are scoring goals. All of our midfield players are scoring goals. We have kids coming off the bench scoring goals,” Gardner said. “That is one of the benefits that we have going into CIF over that 2009 team.”
But right now, the focus isn’t on winning another title. It’s winning in the first-round, where the Tigers went out last season.
“We talked about treating this game like it was CIF because last year, we were one and done,” Gardner said. “Summer, fall to now, we talk about that once a week and how that has to be our focus.”