By Zach Cavanagh

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – All of the goal scoring in the CIF-SS Boys Soccer Division 5 championship game happened in a flash, but the opening five minutes was all that was needed to establish the difference on Friday at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School.

Sierra Vista of Baldwin Park scored in the second minute, St. Margaret’s leveled in the third minute and Sierra Vista scored again in the fifth minute to establish a 2-1 lead that never changed en route to the Division 5 title.

“We just had a poor start,” St. Margaret’s coach Peter Carey said. “That’s not really in our character. We usually have a strong start. Maybe the nerves, maybe the crowd, I don’t know. That’s where we lost the game was the start.”

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Sierra Vista (21-2-1) packed the bleachers with a couple busload of fans and celebrated with their large crowd as the seconds ticked down. It was the first championship in the 25-year career of Dons coach Jose Rodriguez.

St. Margaret’s (22-4-0) was playing in its first CIF-SS championship game since 2014. The Tartans were also runner-ups that year with their only CIF-SS title in 2003. In that 2014 run, St. Margaret’s rallied to win the CIF SoCal Regional Championship, which the Tartans will try to do again next week. The regional draw takes place on Sunday.

“We use this as motivation,” Carey said. “I told them to let it sink it, and pull their heads up. We win, we lose, we’re going to stick together. We’ll use this as motivation to keep grinding.”

Sierra Vista came out firing and hit the post in the game’s opening minute.

The Dons scored moments later when Andrew Torres converted a one-on-one opportunity to the right side.

St. Margaret’s immediately answered. Tristen Egdorf collected a header from a teammate and blasted it through the left side for the 1-1 score.

Two minutes later, Torres streaked diagonally into the Tartans’ end and placed a shot to the left side to collect his second goal and the lead for Sierra Vista.

“Sierra Vista, definitely the best team we’ve played,” Carey said. “They deserve to be here. I could tell right away they’ve got quality all over the field. At the end of the day, it’s the team that makes the mistakes pays the price.”

It was a physical match from the start, and that continued through the rest of the contest. Both teams earned two yellow cards each in the game.

The physicality took its toll on St. Margaret’s in the 28th minute. The Tartans’ leading scorer, Tomas Anderson-Comas, dribbled the ball into the Sierra Vista box and crashed into the Dons keeper. Anderson-Comas went off with an injury and did not return.

“That definitely (hurt),” Carey said. “We have other guys to look to, but it sinks in. It’s the mental part of the game that gets you when you see your leading goal scorer go out.”

In the second half, St. Margaret’s keeper Justin O’Donnell made two diving saves on Sierra Vista shots from distance. The Dons also hit another post late in the game on a long shot.

Conversely, St. Margaret’s had trouble stringing together offense. The Tartans did get a couple open chances but couldn’t direct the shots on net as Sierra Vista wound down the game for the win.

“I wouldn’t say it’s what they were doing,” Carey said. “It was what we weren’t doing. We’re usually a little bigger and stronger, and early, we gave that up. I thought we were going to get back in it at one moment. We had some momentum going, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

The Tartans had put a strong run to get to the final.

St. Margaret’s went undefeated in San Joaquin League play for their third straight league title and 16th in the last 21 seasons. The Tartans had scored three or more goals in 10 of their previous 11 games.

“The boys have such good chemistry,” Carey said. “They all work for each other. Coaching high school now for 13 years, and I’ve never had a team whose chemistry is so tight. You have that on top of quality, and that’s the main contributor.”

St. Margaret’s enters the regional playoffs next week.

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