The Hart High boys’ soccer team is on fire after winning the Hart Soccer Showcase on Thursday.
The Indians won an up-tempo and competitive championship match over the San Fernando Tigers, 3-2 at College of the Canyons for the team’s ninth-straight win.
Hart (10-1) was led by sophomore Sebastian Carrasco, who netted his third goal of the tournament to win the championship.
The Indians needed just about 15 seconds to take the lead over the Tigers. An early offensive push by reigning Foothill League Player of the Year Trenton Rickard sent San Fernando immediately back to defend. Rickard worked the ball up the right side and fired in a cross that Marcos Flores drilled into the net.
The Tigers (5-6-2) showed the same level of aggression instantly and equalized just minutes later. Hart’s back line deflected the initial shot but the ball took a bounce to the other side of the field where San Fernando captain Evan Reyes would rocket in the goal.
Hart’s aggressive play was too much for the Tigers in the first half. The Indians controlled possession and reclaimed the lead just minutes after Reyes’ goal. Hart senior Gustavo Valadez would break through the San Fernando backline to net the second goal for the Indians.
After three goals in less than 15 minutes, both teams settled in on defense and went into the halftime break, 2-1 in favor of Hart.
However, the Tigers came out clawing and registered a goal within a minute of the opening whistle of their own. Sophomore striker Humberto Duarte tied the game 2-2 with a quick shot off from the right side.
Rickard’s pressure never ceased as the senior had several shots deflected, saved or just missed the net. However, the Master’s University-commit would register another go-ahead assist and send the ball into Carrasco for the game-winner. Rickard was fed down the right side from midfield, where he created space and sent another well-placed cross inside the box.
Carrasco hasn’t played a ton of minutes this season, but felt a rejuvenated confidence now with big goals in significant moments.
“I was just more confident this tournament,” Carrasco said. “I never get that much playing time or score that much. So, it feels really good to score this tournament and it’s just motivated me for every other game.”
San Fernando fought for another equalizer but just fell short for the team’s first loss in six games.
Both Rickard and Carrasco were quick to shout out sophomore goalkeeper Marco Gonzalez.
“Our goalie, he saved us this game,” Carrasco said. “Our defense is super solid in the back and that’s what has helped us work forward to get to the goal and score.”
Gonzalez has been a standout in between the posts this year. The keeper has racked up six clean sheets in his last eight games.
It was a busy week for Hart with the team defeating Fulton, 4-2 on Tuesday, downing Dos Pueblos, 2-0 on Wednesday and beating Crespi, 4-0 Thursday morning before advancing to play San Fernando (5-6-2).
“It was tough on the boys to play competition where you have a lot of games going on in a few days,” said Hart head coach Giovanni Salinas. “But I think the boys played great. We had to be making adjustments every single game. Like I’ve said before, every player here makes a huge impact on the team. Whoever comes in, the team doesn’t draw back, the team gets even stronger.”
San Fernando played just as many games in the same number of days. The Tigers beat Moorpark, 2-1 on Tuesday, drew with El Camino 0-0 on Wednesday and defeated Saugus 3-1 on Thursday.
The wins in a short-period of time have boosted Hart’s confidence even further as they dive into league play next week.
“I think everyone’s great work was a big outlier for sure,” Rickard said. “Even though we played two games back-to-back and two games two days before this, everyone just worked every game. It’s a big reason we succeeded and we’re willing to play together.”
Salinas believes he has impact players at every position on the pitch as well as up and down his bench. Carrasco is a player who was vital in the showcase and the coach believes he’ll be just as important for the future of the program.
“(Carraso is) one of the younger guys in the squad,” Salinas said. “And in this tournament, he scored three important goals, including one in the final. … There’s big things coming in from him, especially since Trent will be graduating this year. I think he has some big shoes to fit in, but I think he’s getting there and I think in upcoming years he should be a good striker for the program.”
With standouts all over the field and a promising young core, the head coach also sees his team’s chemistry as a huge advantage in every game.
“I think the difference-maker in this is that these boys have been together for a very long time,” Salinas said. “Throughout the years they played in clubs together so the chemistry is there. For me as a coach, it’s just sort of figuring out the puzzle pieces to make sure that we have the best team out there every single minute of the game.”
Hart will now be off for a few days before re-entering Foothill League action with a trip to West Ranch.
“I think right now, the boys are really confident,” Salinas said. “There’s a lot of players that got playing time in this tournament since we have to do a lot of rotations and I think everybody’s ready to come back to league. League has been really tough the last two seasons, it’s been (won) by one point. But I think this year with the rotation of the players and chemistry of the players, I think we’re ready to come out and make sure that we do our best in the remaining games a week.”
The Indians head to West Ranch just after the new year at 4 p.m. Tuesday.