SCCS boys soccer fights battle of endurance

Santa Clarita Christian School's Gavin Kostjuk (7) takes the ball towards goal the against Heritage Christian defenders Justin Horrell (8) and Erick Martinez (10) on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

It has been 23 days since the Santa Clarita Christian School boys soccer team has played. On Wednesday, the Cardinals hosted Heritage Christian at Central Park in their first game since the holiday break and the first game of the New Year.

Out of the gates, SCCS was out-hustled by the visitors, fell behind early and couldn’t quite recover from the deficit, falling 10-4.

“We were a little slow because of the holidays, but it’s part of the schedule,” said SCCS head coach Steven Cooper. “That’s just the way it is.”

Playing with 10 men to begin the contest, the Cardinals (2-6, 1-3 Heritage League) found themselves playing defense for the better part of the first half as the Warriors kept cycling in players off their 24-man roster.

Taking advantage of the mismatch Heritage Christian scored three goals in the first 20 minutes of play to take a 3-0 lead.

Gavin Kostjuk was able to get a goal back scoring in the 25th minute to make it 3-1 in the visitors’ favor.

The Warriors (5-4, 0-0 Olympic League) responded with three more goals and headed into the half up 6-1.

The second half was a whole different story as the Cardinal came out of the gates with a determined passion that Heritage Christian couldn’t match. Scoring two quick goals to begin the half in the 42nd and 44th minutes, as Hunter Phelps and Brett Ramirez scored, respectively.

“I think we definitely improved,” Phelps said of SCCS’s play in the second half. “Our first half was a little shaky, but I think we figured out what we needed to do and how we needed to play. We did a lot better playing as a team and that contributed to spacing them out and being able to put those in.”

The Warriors answered with a goal of their own, but with 20 minutes left in the game, Phelps unleashed a free-kick from about 30 yards out that was destined to see the back of the net to make get the Cardinals within three goals, down 7-4.

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“I had the free-kick and I heard in the back of my ear either coach or Gavin or someone saying, ‘shoot it,’” Phelps said. “I set it down, ripped it and it went in.”

That would spell the end of the Cardinals’ scoring for the day, but the Warriors went on to score three more times to come away with the win.

Senior goalkeeper TJ Evans finished with multiple acrobatic saves to finish with 18 saves in total.

“I just know that this is my senior season and I have to play my hardest because I know I’m going to miss it,” Evans said.

The Cardinals host Palmdale Aerospace Academy at 6 p.m. at Central Park on Tuesday.

“For the amount of people we have, we actually played well,” Kostjuk said. “Before the game when we saw them walk up with 25 players, we knew it was going to be rough when you have no one on the bench. With that in mind, we played pretty well. Near the end, we started to pick it up and move the ball around and play better as a team. We didn’t really let them in our heads too much.”

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