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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 11:01 am | Partly Cloudy 52º

 
 
 
 
Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank
Boys Soccer

Santa Barbara Regroups in State Soccer Regional, beats Palisades, 3-1

Dons play their game, score two goals in first 10 minutes, advance to semifinals

Santa Barbara goalkeeper Juan “Paulie” Santana is congratulated by defender Sloan Hanson after picking off a ball hit into the 18-yard box. Also defending on the play is Tanner Mees (15).
Santa Barbara goalkeeper Juan “Paulie” Santana is congratulated by defender Sloan Hanson after picking off a ball hit into the 18-yard box. Also defending on the play is Tanner Mees (15). (Diego Topete / Noozhawk photo)

The bad taste in the mouths of the Santa Barbara High soccer players was quickly washed away in the Tuesday’s CIF State Regional Tournament opener at Peabody Stadium.

The Dons scored two goals in the first 10 minutes and defeated L.A. City Section champion Palisades, 3-1, for their first victory at the Division 1 level of the regionals.

Santa Barbara was coming off a 3-1 loss to Loyola in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 final on Saturday in Downey.

“You never know what the emotional response is going to be after losing in a section final,” Santa Barbara coach Todd Heil said. “I don’t know if we had our best performance against Loyola – credit to Loyola for how they played. The biggest question for me and (assistant) Freddy (Martinez) and the entire coaching staff was what was our emotional response going to be. I can say all the things I can say until I’m blue in the face. What it comes down is if they want to come out and compete again. That’s up to them. I think they showed they wanted to compete. They don’t want their season to be over, so we’re gong to play one more at least.”

The Dons (23-6-2) will play at top-seeded Cathedral Catholic in San Diego on Thursday in the semifinals. Cathedral Catholic beat eighth seed Warren 2-1. Loyola hosts Los Alamitos in the other semifinal. The regional final is on Saturday.

Tanner Mees and Celso Lagunas provided an emotional lift for Santa Barbara on Tuesday with goals in the 7th and 10th minutes.  Mees finished a corner kick from Jorge Garcia Torres for the first goal.

“I saw the ball being served to the far post and I attacked it and kicked it in, surprisingly untouched,” said Mees, a defender.

“I thought we started the game incredibly well,” Heil said. “I think that took the wind out of their sails. We did something we didn’t do on Saturday: connecting (passes) and combining. We just got back to Santa Barbara soccer that we weren’t able to do on Saturday night.”

The Dons had Palisades on the defensive for the first half and the early part of the second. They missed a penalty kick but came back and scored on an own goal when a driven ball deflected off a Dolphins player and into the net.

Palisades (19-3-2) avoided the shutout by getting a goal by Chad Johnson on penalty kick in the 75th minute.

Despite losing the shutout, Santa Barbara goalkeeper Juan “Paulie” Santana turned in another stellar performance.

“We’ve been playing some really good teams and Paulie has been coming up big,” Heil said. “He’s been hitting his stride. The thing about Paulie, he had broken arm during the first half of season. His first game was the first San Marcos game in January, so he’s really hitting his stride. He’s been great.”

Defender Sloan Hanson of Santa Barbara dribbles away from Palisades forward Chad Johnson. Click to view larger
Defender Sloan Hanson of Santa Barbara dribbles away from Palisades forward Chad Johnson. (Diego Topete / Noozhawk photo)

Mees said it was great to play at home again.

“It’s definitely nice to come back and win, especially in front of our home crowd. It’s really big playing in front of our home crowd. They’re very supportive.”

Going into the game, Mees said Heil told the team “not to look back on the loss against Loyola and keep moving forward. The last time (the Dons) lost in the section finals they won in state and that’s what we’re motivated to do.”

This is the third state regional tournament for Santa Barbara. It lost in the Division 2 final in 2010 and won the D-2 title in 2011. “This is our first experience in Division 1,” said Heil.

The veteran coach said knew little about Palisades other than its record and that it upset top-seeded Granada Hills in the L.A. City final.

He wasn’t concerned.

“To be honest, after Saturday I kind of just said, ‘Let’s kind of worry about ourselves and just play.’ ”

The Dons did and walked off Peabody Stadium with the great taste of victory in their mouths.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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