Valencia High boys soccer leaned on its size to advance through the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 second round. Now the Vikings will have to fend off Saddleback High of Santa Ana’s size today at 3 p.m. to stay alive.
To be sure, Valencia is not a big team. But senior Stephen Prezioso stands above the rest.
Coach Tony Scalercio started Prezioso on Wednesday at Fullerton High, in part, because of that size and because of his skill in the air.
It paid off.
In overtime, Julio Dominguez hit a corner kick into the box, just over the head of Cesar Dominguez and onto Prezioso’s noggin.
“He headed it right down into the net,” Scalercio said.
Valencia headed right out onto the field in celebration.
They say, without a picture it didn’t happen. Scalercio snapped a video of the jumping and hollering, which he compared to Valencia’s celebration last season in the SoCal Regional playoffs when Justin Ikeora scored the golden goal.
Valencia’s reward after Prezioso’s golden goal? Another road game.
The Vikings lost a coin flip with Saddleback.
The Roadrunners (12-7-10) have good team size, comparable to the South High of Torrance team that knocked Valencia out in the semifinals of Division 4 last season.
Saddleback also plays a similar style to South — and Valencia.
“At times they play very direct, at times they play a build-up game of soccer,” Scalercio said. “They are a lot like our style. It’s a winning style of soccer.”
If Valencia wins, and Citrus Valley of Redlands wins, then the Vikings (18-2-4) would be home for the semifinals on Tuesday.
If Valencia wins and Camarillo wins, the Vikings would play a third straight road playoff game.
Before the Centurions touched a ball at practice Thursday, a handful of veteran players spoke.
Each talked about last season’s quarterfinal game against Godinez of Santa Ana (a 2-1 loss to the eventual section champs). Senior forward James Johnson talked about the intensity of the match, the size of the stage, the crushing blow of defeat.
“He knew for the seniors that was their last high school game,” coach Seth Groller said. “For some of them, their last soccer game they ever played.”
Johnson isn’t ready to end his Saugus career yet.
Saugus hopes its experienced players and the momentum it’s built means Johnson won’t be done after today’s game at Colony High of Ontario in a CIF-Southern Section Division 4 quarterfinal at 3 p.m.
“I really feel we have been peaking at the right time,” Groller said.
Groller believes that’s not only true of his offense. The Centurions, with a back line of Brennen Armendariz, Jaydon Willsey, Jeremy Hindigian and Sebastian Wueste and goalie Matt Sayers, haven’t given up a goal in eight of the team’s last 11 games.
“My defense is stepping up huge,” Groller said.
That defense fended off a hard-charging Highland team in the second half of their playoff opener last week. Then it shut out Culver City on Wednesday.
Colony didn’t score a goal in its first-round win over Coachella Valley, winning 4-2 in penalty kicks. Then the Titans (12-7-3) took down Carter of Rialto 2-1 at home.
But now it must face a Saugus team that’s lost just twice in its last 12 matches. An exciting side note for the Centurions (15-6-4): Their entire back line, their goalie and two midfielders will be back next year.
Groller isn’t ready for this ride to end. But he knows, win or lose, this experience will benefit the underclassmen…
“So they can be the ones giving their advice to the new players,” he said.