WALNUT, Calif. – The Irvine Valley men’s soccer team needed one goal in the final 90 seconds to avoid exiting the playoffs one step short of Fresno for the second-straight season.
But top-seeded Mt. San Antonio College controlled both the ball and the Lasers’ ill-fated destiny, leaving coach Martin McGrogan to console his team following Saturday’s 3-2 Southern California Regional final defeat.
“We made a couple of individual mistakes in the back and it was hard to overcome,” McGrogan said. “We work hard and this team doesn’t quit. Full credit to Mt. Sac for being able to put it away.”
The fifth-seeded Lasers (15-5-4) spent much of the first half on their heels staving off an aggressive Mounties offense. Mt. SAC needed only five minutes to take the lead for good on a header by Cameron Sims past Lasers goalkeeper Mikhail Radchuk.
Radchuk, who recorded his tenth shutout of the season against East LA College in the first round of the playoffs two weeks prior, finished with five saves on Saturday but couldn’t extend his team’s unbeaten streak to 11 games.
The Mounties doubled their lead in the 22nd minute when Carlos Gonzalez received a midfield assist from Gabriel Tinoco ahead of IVC’s defense and rolled the ball into the goal for an easy score.
IVC responded with a score of its own 15 minutes later on a penalty kick by freshman midfielder Jack Plummer, who also scored the only goal in the Lasers’ Regional Semifinal victory over Palomar on Nov. 20.
“I thought we tested them from set plays,” McGrogan said. “I thought we tested them on throw-ins. There were a few calls today that were fouls that on other days were not fouls, but all in all, I thought it was a good contest. It was neutral and the best team won.”
Mt. SAC started the second half much like it started the first, scoring within the first five minutes on Gonzalez’ second goal of the contest. The Lasers had few opportunities to test Mounties’ goalkeeper Luis Ocampo, who anchored a stingy defense that kept the ball at midfield for much of the second half.
IVC made its final push to extend its season in the final 10 minutes, resulting in Plummer’s second goal in the 87th minute on a good look in front of the net. The Lasers wouldn’t get another in the waning minutes.
“The season always ends rather quickly and it obviously didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but we have some great kids and happy memories from people who worked hard for each other,” McGrogan said.
IVC will be in line to graduate eight sophomores that helped lead the team to a 29-9-8 record over the past two seasons.