A team that so often found the magic to win with its back to the wall gave it all they had Thursday but the mojo finally ran out. After playing to a 1-1 draw after 95 minutes, second-seeded host Torrey Pines fell to No. 3 seed Loyola (Los Angeles), 6-5, on penalty kicks in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I boys’ soccer semi-finals.
The loss eliminated Torrey Pines in the D1 semi-final round of the regionals for the second consecutive year after winning the Division II crown in 2018. The Falcons finished 2019-20 with an overall mark of 22-4-2, which included a second straight San Diego CIF Open Division banner. Loyola (24-3-3), which tied Torrey Pines, 1-1, in a January 3 regular season match-up, will now host fifth-seeded Cathedral, also out of Los Angeles, in Saturday’s regional title tilt.
“It was disappointing because this is our sixth time reaching the regional tournament and we just didn’t play well,” said Head Coach Andy Hargreaves. “If we could have held on, we would have had a home game Saturday for the championship. Everything was falling in line.” Except Loyola failed to follow the script.
After playing to a scoreless tie in the first half, the two teams continued on equal terms through the opening stages of the second half but in the 20th minute, Torrey Pines finally punctured the Cubs’ defense. Senior Jose Salgado won the ball just inside the midfield stripe and forwarded it to sophomore Charlie Kosakoff down the right wing. About 10 yards from the end line, Kosakoff got space and sent a low liner into the box where senior Chris Tonelli ran onto it and deposited a short volley into the goal before toppling to the ground in front of the goal line.
Loyola seemed inspired by surrendering the lead and began getting the best of the play as Torrey Pines seemed to fall into a cautious stance with time running down. The Falcons were less than 10 minutes from victory when the Cubs drew even on a defensive miscue. An apparent miscommunication between goalkeeper Nick Bello and his defenders allowed a ball to drop in at close range and junior Spencer Roberts softly put it over the top and into the goal.
Loyola went full bore on offense but was unable to capitalize in those last 10 minutes of regulation and the 15-minute overtime period. Torrey Pines also had its chances, the best coming off a late OT corner kick when junior Reid Hershey’s bicycle kick from just outside the six-yard box bounced off the crossbar.
The decision went to penalty kicks which has been a domain where Bello has consistently shined over the past two seasons. Once again, the unflappable senior was a tower of strength for Torrey, stopping three Cub strikes, each with the Falcons trailing or facing elimination if a goal was scored. This time it was not enough. Ultimately, on the ninth set of shooters, the home team missed and Loyola connected to ice the outcome.
Hargreaves lamented what could have been. “Loyola is a very good team but we could have closed this out, should have closed this out,” said Hargreaves. “We didn’t finish the chances we had and gave up a soft goal.
“Honestly, our errors created chances for them more than they created on their own.” Hargreaves, whose team seemed a step slow, particularly in the latter portions of the contest, theorized that perhaps the way Tuesday’s respective corner finals played out may have subtly affected Thursday’s performance. While Torrey Pines was routing Mission Viejo, Loyola struggled to put away Del Norte, a team that the Falcons had easily dispatched in the San Diego CIF championship game.
“They went down-to-the-wire Tuesday, really had to battle, while we coasted to a win,” Hargreaves said. “I’m not sure if that helped us. We may have come in mentally today in a place we shouldn’t have been.”
In retrospect, Hargreaves called it a memorable campaign. “This is a really cool set of guys, fun to be around,” he said. “The camaraderie and team spirit were great and they were able to overcome a lot of adversity in terms of injuries and guys playing hurt.
“This was a tough way for them to go out.”