Quest for back-to-back championship ends
A 3-0 shutout of Sunny Hills on Tuesday propelled the Claremont High School varsity boys soccer team forward from the second round to the quarterfinals. But the Wolfpack would get no further than the quarterfinals after suffering a 1-0 defeat to La Sierra in Riverside on Thursday.
Having won 12 straight matches going into the CIF Southern Section Division 2 encounter—including the Sierra League championship along the way—Claremont could not convert on several opportunities resulting in the defeat. CHS had entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed.
The game was a defensive battle with Claremont goalie Sam Newton recording 5 saves. The Eagles also received a solid defensive effort from goalie Victor Rodriguez, who also had 5 saves. La Sierra’s Kenshiro Daniels scored the game’s only goal in the first half.
After slow start, CHS offense kicks in high gear
After a scoreless 75 minutes in Tuesday’s against Sunny Hills, the Wolfpack offense finally opened the floodgates and unleashed 3 goals within the final 4 minutes to emerge victorious over the Lancers. CHS defender Jesse Rodgers put the Pack on the board and midfielder Daniel Kim added 2 goals of his own in the victorious effort.
In a game where the Lancers had possession of the ball as much as the Wolfpack, CHS coach Fred Bruce-Oliver believed his team’s stamina was a key factor in the win.
“They stepped up big time,” said CHS coach Fred Bruce-Oliver. “When I noticed the Sunny Hills players were tired, I put our hotshots. Daniel [Kim] had not played since the South Hills game [on Feb. 9] because of his ankle but what a game for him. I try to manage our players’ stamina during the game. I used to play them to the ground but I now watch and sub people in when I need to give them a rest.”
Coach Bruce-Oliver’s substitution to bring in Shane Hewitt, Denes Kantor and Daniel Kim came with 15 minutes left to play in Tuesday’s contest. Claremont had a passing sequence involving Troy Ford and Tyler Antillon at the 71-minute mark that nearly lead to a goal by Hewitt but Sunny Hills goalie Jordan Brinkley made the save. CHS had another scoring opportunity just seconds later but Russell Donaldson’s kick sailed wide.
Rodgers broke the scoreless tie at 75:27 when he fielded a pass from Hewitt and booted the ball straight past Brinkley. The play had started with a corner by Hewitt but when a Lancer defender kicked the ball away from the goal, Hewitt then kicked the ball right back toward the goal where Rodgers completed the play.
“I was excited and it was so surreal,” Rodgers said. “I thought we had possessed well the ball and defended well as a team.”
Having not played since February 9 due to an ankle injury, Kim made his 15 minutes count on Tuesday. He scored his first goal off a steal near the goal at 76:18 and then scored once more less than 2 minutes later when he received a lead pass from Hewitt and beat 3 Sunny Hills defenders down the field for a clear shot at the goal.
“It feels amazing,” said Kim, following his 2-goal performance. “My second goal came off a perfect pass from Shane [Hewitt] and my first goal was lucky because their [Sunny Hills] defense made a mistake. We dominated for the first 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes.”
Claremont (23-3-1) posted its second consecutive 20-win season in 2011-12, following its CIF-SS championship season in 2010-11. Nineteen of the Wolfpack’s 23 players this season were seniors.