Miguel Alvarado
Miguel Alvarado of Santa Barbara prepares to take a shot while being pressured by Loyola’s Adrian Camacho. Alvarado scored the Dons’ goal in the 2-1 playoff loss. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

Luck, say some, is the residue of design. And by that standard, Nate Smith-Hastie left a major smudge on Loyola’s 2-1 victory over Santa Barbara High Saturday in a second round CIF Division 1 soccer playoffs at Peabody Stadium.

 In the waning minutes of the game, Smith-Hastie found himself alone on the right side of the penalty box after a crossing pass cleared the Santa Barbara defense. He blasted a shot as a crowd of players converged on the goal and it deflected off a Dons’ defender into the net. So, technically, the game-winner fell into that most bitter abyss of soccer, the “own goal.”

“A bit of luck there,’ admitted Smith-Hastie. 

But, in truth, Smith-Hastie had earned the score with a strong run down the right side that forced a corner kick. Seconds later, the ball returned to him for his moment of opportunity. Smith-Hastie also was the man of the moment on Loyola’s game-tying first goal, at the end of the first half, when he collected a long pass forward from James Reddington roughly 20 yards from the goal. The Dons’ goalkeeper fired off the line but Smith-Hastie fired a shot past him into the empty net.

Both of Loyola’s goals, as it turned out, occurred when the scoreboard clock was stopped. By rule, the referee keeps time on the field, taking into account previous stoppages where the clock kept running. There was almost no time left when Loyola scored in the first half, but the second goal was followed by a flurry of determined assaults by the Dons that forced Loyola to defend several dangerous crossing passes for at least two minutes. 

Cason Goodman takes a shot against Loyola defender Alejandro Sanchez.

Cason Goodman takes a shot against Loyola defender Alejandro Sanchez. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

“They had us off our game in the first half,” said Loyola coach Chris Walter, whose team improves to 17-1-1. “We relaxed and played more of our game in the second half. “There are going to be swings of momentum whenever you play a good team and Santa Barbara is a very good, a very talented team.”

Santa Barbara, 10-3-1, certainly had owned the momentum for most of the first half. The Dons consistently won most of the challenges for contested balls, and forced Loyola to fend off repeated sorties into the goal area. Cason Goodman, Joaquin Greenberg, and Rockwood Foster were particularly adept at controlling the center while Miguel Alvarado and John Najera worked the sidelines to launch many dangerous crosses. 

The Dons’ relentless pressure resulted in seven corner kicks, to none for Loyola. So, when the payoff finally came, with just under 12 minutes in the half, it was well deserved. As a wave of Dons surged forward, Goodman planted himself like a flag post deep inside the box and pushed a header toward the goal that bounced off the crossbar and found its way to a hard-charging Miguel Alvarado, who cashed it in.

Unfortunately, for Santa Barbara, it was unable to do more with its period of midfield control and Loyola came out for the second half with a clear step-up in its determination. It began to win more and more of the contested balls, forcing the Dons to spread out and play stressful defense. The swing resulted in several corner kicks and free kicks for Loyola.

But Santa Barbara, while under more stress in the second half, was up to the task. Cason’s twin brother, Barrett, Erick Hernandez and goalie Erik Vasquez were often prominent as the Dons fended off attacks but were never acting alone as Santa Barbara retained, for the most part, a pretty cohesive back line. Alvarado and Luis Jeronimo even squeezed off shots that required saves by Loyola goalie Zach Driscoll. And Najera provided an intriguing, if futile, example of just how determined the Dons when he fell forward while challenging for a ball and, while lying prostrate, managed to poke the ball forward with a nudge of his head.

“It was a tough game, but that’s how it goes sometimes,” said Santa Barbara’s first-year coach Ricardo Alcaraz. “Our guys played hard enough to win. We didn’t capitalize on some of our opportunities. But I’m still real proud of them.”