Hart boys soccer making most of bye ahead of state playoffs

Hart's Lawrence Luna (6) and Nicholas Woll (11) celebrate Luna's second goal in the first half against Royal at Hart on Jan. 3, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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After Hart boys soccer’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3 semifinal overtime loss to North Torrance on Saturday, Feb. 22, the Indians were devastated and believed that the three previous wins were for nothing.

But the Indians forgot about one stipulation: The teams that reached the CIF-SS semifinals automatically qualify for the state tournament.

“After that loss, we felt that we were done,” said Hart midfielder Joseph Ochoa. “When we heard that we qualified for state, we felt like it was a second chance from God to go out and win it. We feel inspired and motivated to work harder, play better as a team and go out and win it as a team.”

With North winning the Division 3 crown, it moved up to Division II in the state tournament. Hart got the No. 1 overall seed in Division III, a first-round bye and will open up the tournament on Thursday.

With almost two weeks off in between the CIF-SS semifinals contest and the state tourney, Hart has been taking advantage of the time leading up to it to work on a couple of things.

“We kind of used it as a wake-up call because some guys were sleeping during the game,” said Hart midfielder Nathaniel Bello about the CIF-SS exit. “We needed to fix a few errors in the game and it gave us the extra-motivation that it’s not over yet and we have to keep going until the end.”

Working on team defense, they have been focusing their efforts on pressuring, covering their man and defending as a collective unit.

“We are just trying to get mentally prepared for when we either get counterattacks or little mistakes about how to cover as a team,” said Hart forward Lawrence Luna. “If one of our teammates falls or gets beaten, how are we all going to shift together and work? If we don’t communicate then we won’t be able to work as a team.”

Although the 12-day layoff in between the CIF-SS and CIF state games has given Hart some time to address problems or issues and adjust, the long break might be detrimental to the players.

MORE: Hart goalkeeper Lucas Enriquez finds his calling

“Sometimes we get off focus when we have too long of a break,” Bello said. “We need to stay in the zone kind of.”

For the Indians to come away with a win on Thursday, one thing that Hart has to be is mentally prepared for the road ahead.

“We have to focus on scoring first so we get our momentum up,” Luna said. “We just have to go all out mentally and physically and have that mentality that we are going to win. Yes, we failed to win CIF, but again, we have another chance and we have the No. 1 seed.”

The Indians will host the No. 5 seed, Santiago, also a CIF-SS Division 3 semi-finalist, at 3 p.m. on Thursday. 

“We were pretty beat up because we had a lot of games this season,” Ochoa said. “This week and a half helped me and probably most of the team to get rest, prepare and get ready for the game.”

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