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Valencia suffers tough loss in NOCC final

OCVARSITY.COM

It was a halftime speech that had little effect on the Valencia boys soccer team on Saturday, but it’s one that Coach Barry Gardner hopes will resonate with his team now that the Tigers have experienced the disappointment that he warned them about.

Valencia dominated the first 40 minutes, taking a three-goal lead into halftime, but Artesia scored three unanswered goals in the second half and then stopped all three Valencia penalty kicks while converting on all three of its chances to win the Varsity 1 Division championship at the North Orange County Tournament.

“We talked about how even if you have a three-goal lead, you can’t sit back. You have to keep pushing,” Gardner said. “And then we didn’t come out and play our game in the second half. And when they scored a goal, we got flustered.”

Joel Atilano began the Pioneers’ comeback in the 42nd firing a 40-yard shot into the upper right corner of the goal. And then after Alfonso Borja brought Artesia (9-0-4) to within one goal of the host Tigers (6-2-4) in the 62nd minute, Alex Martinez tied the game, 3-3, with his long-distance strike that was almost a carbon copy of Atilano’s goal.

The Tigers also watched a three-goal lead evaporate in the semifinals earlier in the day, but the Tigers held on to beat La Serna, 3-2. Valencia’s inability to easily close out these games is a bit of a concern with Empire League play beginning next week.

“We are heading in the wrong direction,” Gardner said. “We have to lock down our defensive shape.”

The Tigers jumped on the Pioneers early when Edwin Ramirez knocked a shot inside the far post in the second minute. Valencia scored two more goals in the six-minute span after the Artesia’s starting keeper, Chekue Diaz, left with an apparent injury to his left leg.

Saul Ocampo replaced him in the 24th minute, and Valencia tested him right away as Ivan Arias stretched Valencia’s lead to two goals in the 26th minute. Jesse Gonzalez added a goal in the 32nd minute to give Valencia a 3-0 lead.

“Obviously the guys are bummed out, and we are going to have to get our confidence back for league,” Gardner said.

In the Varsity 2 Division Championship:

El Dorado 3, Ayala 1: Matthew Anderson, Sean Kinnane and Alex Trejo each scored for the Golden Hawks (9-3-1) in the final 15 minutes at Valencia High.

 “We are trying to instill a refuse-to-lose mentality, and now even when they are playing poorly, they find a way to win,”  El Dorado coach Steven McManus said.


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