The La Costa Canyon boys soccer team’s vision of winning the CIF Open Division championship as the five-seed came up one step short as Coach Craig Dean’s Mavericks dropped a 4-2 decision to No. 3 seed San Marcos Friday night at Mission Bay High School.
Playing at a furious rate all night, both teams were giving and taking at a near even clip and it was LCC, which got to the championship match by shocking undefeated No. 1 seed Torrey Pines in the semi-final, that struck first. In the 28th minute, senior forward Jacob Chong, who made a habit of intimidating the San Marcos goal all evening, broke free up the middle and was pulled down about 10 yards short of the goal line. The Mavs’ leading scorer calmly drilled the ensuing penalty kick into the bottom left corner, glided with both arms up toward the sidelines and did a leaping somersault for the crowd. Unfortunately for LCC fans, it was their last real opportunity to celebrate and it didn’t last all that long.
One minute and 17 seconds later, a San Marcos crossing pass inside the box was corralled by senior Pedro Mercado and the Knights’ captain put it away for his 16th goal of the year. The score appeared to embolden San Marcos, which suddenly put a series of dangerous forays on the La Costa goal. With just 3:06 to go in the first half, they hit paydirt again. A booming throw-in from the right side by senior Bennett Chergosky went all the way to the far post. It was headed back to the near post where senior Jose Sanchez tapped it home to provide Coach Matt Hidalgo’s squad with its first lead.
Coming out of the halftime break up, 2-1, the Knights quickly took LCC’s situation from bad-to-worse and the culprit was again Sanchez. Just 1:33 into the re-start, he back-headed a corner kick into the far side of the net to put San Marcos up by two. The Mavericks, demonstrating the same grit they used in the previous week’s comeback win over Torrey Pines, pulled it back to a one-goal margin just over two minutes later. Senior Tate Duncan got fouled just inside the top left corner of the box and Chong was sent to the spot where he got his second goal of the game.
La Costa Canyon pushed hard over the final third of the game but was unable to penetrate a tightened up San Marcos defense. In the waning minutes, Mercado got loose on a counter attack and recorded the game’s final tally.
“Honestly, set pieces were the difference tonight, they didn’t really beat us in the run of play,” said Dean. “I felt there were spans when San Marcos played very well. When they won the ball, they were able to find their open guys very quickly and those two guys up top are tremendous players.”