On Tuesday, it had been exactly three weeks to the day that the Hart boys soccer team has lost a Foothill League game.
On Senior Night, the Indians weren’t about to let the streak end against West Ranch at Hart High School on Tuesday.
Entering the game, Hart found itself one point behind the Foothill League leader Valencia, but with a 3-0 shutout of the Wildcats, the Indians clinched a spot in the postseason and control their own destiny heading into the final game of the regular season.
“I think they all performed well,” said Hart head coach Adonay Jovel. “We talked about finishing the goals early and they did it. I think the chances that we had, we put away. Those early chances made it easy for us the rest of the game.”
Hart (14-2-3 overall, 5-1-3 Foothill League) controlled the time of possession with Lawrence Luna, Nicholas Woll and Joseph Ochoa playing off each other in tight spaces.
In the 11th minute, after three consecutive Hart corner kicks, Luna crossed a ball towards the Wildcats’ penalty box. Misjudging the trajectory of the cross, West Ranch goalkeeper Eduardo Corretjer tried to punch the ball out, but the ball bounced past him and Hart’s sophomore defender Johnny Rios was there for the tap in.
“We only have six or seven seniors and we have a great group coming back,” Jovel said. “Good year to experience the competition of the league.”
Ochoa went down with an apparent left leg injury with about 15 minutes remaining in the first half, but the Indians kept attacking.
With five minutes remaining, the Indians’ persistence paid off. Off another corner kick, Woll got to a loose ball and with his back to the goal, faked out to West Ranch defenders, turned out wide and released a left-footer towards the near post that slipped past Corretjer and in for the Indians’ second goal of the half.
West Ranch (4-10-3, 1-6-2) didn’t hang their heads, however, as a Niko Marquez direct-free-kick went just over the crossbar.
“I thought Hart dominated the first 10 minutes of the game and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Where is my team,” said West Ranch head coach Mike Kane. “Then they settled down and I thought we played admirably for the remainder of the game.”
At the turn, West Ranch kept attacking and got some clean scoring opportunities with the play of Daniel Ostlund, Joshua Swanson and Marquez. But still, the Cats couldn’t crack the tough Hart defense and squeak a goal past senior goalkeeper Lucas Enriquez.
“We played well, they played well,” the senior said. “We just played better. I’m delighted. It’s the best result for our last home game.”
Fellow Hart senior Jesus Alfonzo insured the Hart victory with a goal in the 68th in the final Foothill League home game of his career.
“I feel like it’s something special, especially for me,’ Alfonzo said of the win. “It’s Senior Night, I stepped forward, but it was a team effort overall.”
With the win, Hart moves into first place in the league standings and with one game remaining, the Indians control their own path to another Foothill League title.
“Big-time because now if Valencia ties, all we have to do is win,” Jovel said of the remaining game. “We are only a point away, so I think it will go to the last game. A tie will give us the lead, we just have to win.”
West Ranch hosts Golden Valley for their Senior Night, while Hart travels to Saugus in the final day of Foothill League play on Thursday. Both games kick off at 3:15 p.m.
“We have to have a good practice tomorrow,” Kane said looking to Thursday’s game. “We would like to send the seniors off with something special and get a win. We want to finish off strong.”
Saugus 3, Canyon 1
The Cowboys (9-10-2 overall, 3-4-2 Foothill League) took an early lead in the 20th minute off a Jarrett Reeser goal that was assisted by Samuel Roque.
Saugus (9-5-4, 3-2-4) responded with a goal by Alex Nilson, Roger Sandino with the assist, to tie the game. With two minutes left in the first half, Saugus’ Arian Timnak gave the Cents a 2-1 lead.
Jason Nakoud scored the third Saugus goal with about five minutes left in the contest.
Canyon hosts Valencia on Thursday at 3:15 p.m.
Golden Valley 3, Valencia 1
The Grizzlies’ Ulisses Arruel scored an early goal off a cross by Jacob Davila and a Cesar Perez goal right before the halftime whistle made it 2-0 Golden Valley.
Valencia (6-3-6, 4-1-4) responded with a free kick by Alexei De Vita in the second half.
Golden Valley (9-8-2, 3-5-1) held on and scored off a counter-attack goal by Arruel with the assist coming from Davila.