By AUSTIN YU, LYNBROOK
March 5, 2013
After a full 100 minutes of heated play, rivals Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep concluded their respective seasons both with a share of the prize, tying 1-1 in the final game Saturday afternoon at Oak Grove High and sharing the Central Coast Section Division III Championship.
The first half of the game was played with much intensity, but no score until the 35th minute when Sacred Heart Prep forward Andrew Segre nailed a shot past Menlo goalkeeper Tim Costa. However, not much later Costa was able to earn redemption, drilling a penalty kick into the Gators’ goal to put the Knights back into the game.
“I called on Timmy to kick it; Timmy, cool as can be just put it in the side netting. We'd had three different penalty kickers this year and we hadn't made a single one so we had talked about Timmy taking it,” Menlo coach Mark Kerrest said. “In earlier rounds it would have gone to penalty kicks and Timmy would have been one of our takers. He's just been clutch for us all year and he can play in the field and I've got loads of confidence in him. So when it came time, I called on him.”
Although both teams had their opportunities to score, including a header by Robert Hellman of SHP in the 94th minute that was narrowly deflected by Menlo’s Jackson Wagner, neither team could score.
Despite defeating the Knights twice during the regular season, the Gators were not able to nab a third triumph. Though crowned co-CCS Division III champions, the Gators marched off of the field with expressions of frustration and disappointment.
"I don't know what to feel,” said Gators coach Armando Del Rio. “I didn't even know if I was supposed to hold the trophy. I know our guys don't feel like it's a CCS championship. At least not yet. I feel like they need some time to digest it."
The frustrations stems with the Gators' high expectation.
"We knew we were the better team," Del Rio said. "I think they were a little bit tense by the fact that, 'Hey, this is a third game we're playing them. They're hungrier than ever. They've never beaten us in boys' soccer.' And this is the perfect story that they write in movies. So I think they came in a little bit more tense than usual."
For Del Rio, the season-long journey means more than the outcome of the final match.
"I'm more at peace than they are because I thought we had really difficult games in CCS and not to marginalize what they've accomplished but I thought Gilroy and San Mateo were super hard," he said. "And we are WBAL Champions beating them twice. I have a little bit more peace than (the players) do, but they're high schoolers."
For Menlo, however, the co-championship was well-received and welcomed by the players and coaches. With only one CCS playoff victory in the team’s history prior to this season, the performance of the team throughout the season and in the playoffs was more than welcome.
“It’s a heated rivalry. We've already played twice during the season and they had the better of our numbers during the season; they won our league," Kerrest said. "But we focused for CCS. We knew that CCS was the second chance for us and we did well to get to the finals. I think it was a hard fought game and it feels weird to end in a tie like that but it seems like it was a fair result. We had our chances, they had their chances. I think it was a great game, i think it was enjoyable for the spectators and it was well officiated. A lot of credit to them for playing hard and a lot of credit to my boys too for toughing it out."