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By Steve Breazeale
The St. Margaret’s boys soccer team had not felt the sting of defeat in quite some time. But in the CIF-SS soccer playoffs, the possibility of a tough loss is always lurking just around the corner.
The young Tartans learned that the hard way when playing host to Fillmore in the CIF-SS Division 6 second round on Feb. 22. The two teams appeared to be evenly matched, but a late goal by the Flash secured a 1-0 victory and the end to the Tartans’ season.
St. Margaret’s (19-4-1, 10-0 league) had not lost a match in 13 games prior to the loss, but Fillmore (17-5-4) changed all that in the 65th minute of the match.
Fillmore junior midfielder Enrique Gutierrez booted a long strike from about 20 yards out that hit Tartans’ goalie Gordon Larson in the hands and trickled past him into the net.
The Flash had been trying long-range shots from outside the box against St. Margaret’s all night, and the attempts either went nowhere near the goal, or Larson was able to handle the shots with ease.
St. Margaret’s, which did not field one senior to start the second round matchup, withstood an aggressive Fillmore attack in the opening 40 minutes. The Flash recorded nine shots in the first half and earned two corner kicks in stoppage time, which disrupted the Tartans’ back line defense and gave the visitors momentum heading into the final 40 minutes.
But the Tartans responded with some aggressive play of their own to start the second half.
St. Margaret’s unleashed sophomore midfielder Kevin Groeninger up the left side of the field, and his involvement in the offense led to several good chances.
A passing sequence that started with Groeninger ended up at the feet of sophomore Robbie Graham right in front of the Fillmore goal, but Graham’s crossing attempt went just high and hit the crossbar in the 47th minute.
Six minutes later Groeninger fed a ball to Graham, who had slipped behind the right side of the Flash defense, and the sophomore put a well-timed shot on target, but Fillmore goalie Kevin Galvan made his best save of the night to end the scoring threat.
The loss marks the end of the season for the Tartans, who went undefeated in Academy League play with a 10-0 record. Since taking over the program for the 2016 season, Tartans’ coach Adam Doty has guided St. Margaret’s to back-to-back Academy League titles.
St. Margaret’s will graduate just three seniors from its roster, and should return plenty of players with experience next season.
Other High School Soccer News:
The JSerra girls soccer team has carried the momentum over from Trinity League play, where they were crowned league champions for the first time and into the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs.
JSerra defeated Dana Hills 4-1 and Los Osos 3-1 in the first and second rounds on Feb. 16 and Feb. 21, respectively.
The Lions will travel to play Los Alamitos in the quarterfinals on Feb. 24.