Santa Margarita gives coach first victory at JSerra

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – It is a play that the Santa Margarita boys soccer team works on at least 50 times during each practice. Matt Merrill takes the ball out wide and sends a cross to Brenden Hickey at the far post.

So Hickey had a good idea where Merrill was going to put the ball in the 27th minute on Friday, and he scored a goal that helped the No. 6 Eagles take down a Trinity League rival.

“This is huge. We knew that this would send a message to the rest of the league,” Hickey said after a 2-1 victory against No. 4 JSerra. It is the first time in the five season that Wade Fraser has been coaching at Santa Margarita that the Eagles (13-3-2, 2-0-1) have beat the Lions (10-2-3, 2-1-1) on their home field.

“The best I have been able to do here is tie, so this is very big,” Fraser said. “There are three things that I tell the guys – stay organized, play hard and have fun. And that is what they are doing right now, and it is showing.”

Hickey’s goal culminated a furious one minute span during which a JSerra far-post defender had to kick a shot away and the Lions’ keeper, Beau Barnidge, had to make two diving saves.

“We are not just getting results. We are taking it to teams and beating teams,” Fraser said.

Throughout most of the first half, the Eagles put pressure on the ball, made it hard for JSerra to maintain possession in the midfield and drew fouls in the attacking third.

It was a free kick from just outside the box in the 36th minute that gave Santa Margarita a 2-0 lead. Sean Goode blasted a shot into the Lions’ wall, and the ball bounced right back to Goode, who then drilled the ball inside the far post.

JSerra pulled to within a goal of the Eagles in the 65th minute when Ivan Canales converted a penalty kick.

Playing from behind is become a familiar theme in Trinity League play for the Lions. They were down 2-1 with 10 minutes to go against St. John Bosco, but in that game, JSerra rallied to win, 3-2.

“We have to find a way to get them playing early in the game,” JSerra coach Davor Fabulich said.

The Lions, though, did have a chance to take the lead in the 14th minute on Friday. That’s when Canales passed the ball to Andres Mendoza during a quick restart. Mendoza dribbled to the middle and unleashed a line drive at the crossbar, but Chandler Kirby knocked the ball away to record one of his two saves for Santa Margarita.

“JSerra had nothing to lose. They were throwing everything at us (when the score was 2-0), and we had to buckle down and defend and keep the ball out of the back of the net,” Fraser said. “And these guys did that for 40 minutes. Every game in this league is going to be a battle.”

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