San Clemente players console one another after their 3-0 loss to El Rancho in their Div. 1 Southern California Regional final game in Downey on Saturday. From left are: Connor Tobia, Dylan DiGiacomo, Gage Zerboni, Oscar Hernandez, and Bryan Dunn.

San Clemente falls in Division 1 regional final


DOWNEY – San Clemente's boys soccer team was dominating the opening minutes of Saturday night's CIF Regional Division 1 final against El Rancho of Pico Rivera at Warren High of Downey. And then, just like that – bang, bang – they were trailing by two goals.

After the Tritons failed to capitalize on their early chances, El Rancho scored on two of its first three shots en route to a 3-0 victory – the school's first regional championship.

"It's always hard when you feel like you're dominating and then they get a goal and they get momentum," San Clemente senior Gage Zerboni said. "We wanted to attack them and really give them a piece of us instead of them taking it to us."

The Tritons (32-3-1) did just that with Zerboni, Santiago DiGiuseppe, Blayne Martinez and Bryce Kaminski putting El Rancho under nearly constant pressure for the first 10 minutes.

But in the 11th minute, El Rancho's Mauricio Lopez changed everything with a stunning goal. Lopez blasted a shot from more than 20 yards out into the top-right corner of the goal to put the Dons ahead.

"I think that first goal even shocked us, that was a heck of a shot," El Rancho coach Dominic Picon said. "He'll never hit a ball cleaner in his life than that. It was a great shot.

"Coming into this we knew that we were going to have to score early to stay with them; they're a quality team."

A little more than a minute later Jaime Moreno doubled the lead with a headed goal, assisted by Christian Roldan.

"I think any team would be kind of caught off guard by that," Zerboni said.

Moreno added his second goal, putting El Rancho ahead, 3-0, in the 27th minute. San Clemente goalkeeper Dylan DiGiacomo tipped a long shot away but the rebound came off the post to Moreno, who tapped home the rebound.

As the Tritons pressed for a goal in the second half, the Dons (28-1-2) stiffened on defense, content to go forward only on the counterattack. When the Tritons could break through the opposing defense that Zerboni said was "like a wall," El Rancho goalkeeper David Lopez made a number of stretching saves to maintain the shutout.

"I'm proud of my guys for an incredible year," San Clemente coach Mike Pronier said. "Thirty-two wins with a schedule like that is an awesome season, we just didn't get the last one."

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