The Santa Maria boys soccer team started off day two of the Central Coast Classic Soccer Tournament at Cabrillo High School Saturday very short-handed.
The Saints began play against San Marcos in a Gold Pool game with 12 field players, not all of them healthy. By the end of the 1-0 Royals’ victory, Santa Maria was down to nine.
Before the second game of the day against Nipomo, Santa Maria coach Al Garcia decided his team was at too much of a disadvantage to continue and was going to forfeit the second game and go home.
But the scrappy Saints wanted to play on — and they somehow talked Garcia into staying.
Then the Saints went out and defeated the Titans 3-2 to clinch second place in the Gold Division.
With a 3-0 win over Nipomo to close the day’s action, San Marcos won the Gold Pool and the overall tournament, which was once again played in a sloppy and muddy mess under cloudy skies, rain and wind.
“We had a lot of kids sick at home and with injuries,” explained Garcia. “I had my fourth string goalie playing in the field.
“We were going to forfeit the second game since we had only 10 players and no subs — it was not worth it to me.”
Nestor Alvarez scored twice in the second half of the Nipomo game to help his under-manned squad the win.
The only goal in the first half was credited to Ricardo Ayala. He sent a long shot across the goal mouth on the ground that ricocheted off a defender to give the Saints a 1-0 lead.
Six minutes into the second half, Santa Maria was awarded a free kick just outside the Nipomo box. Alvarez sent a rocket that bounced off the far goal post and landed in the net just inside the near post for a 2-0 lead.
But Nipomo did not lay down. In fact, it answered back quickly.
After a big rush one minute after the Alvarez goal, Mathieu Ooms — an exchange student from Belgium — took a pass right in front of the net and tapped it in for the goal.
Just a minute later, Ooms took another pass in front and tied the game at 2-all.
“He’s our exchange student from Belgium,” said Nipomo coach Brett Vinnedge. “Unfortunately, we lose him next month when he goes back.”
With about three minutes remaining in the second half, Santa Maria gained another free kick from 40 yards out. Again Alvarez found the back of the net, sending a long arcing shot around the Nipomo wall in front of him.
The Saints withstood a couple more Titan rushes to earn the win.
Garcia was very pleased with the effort of his team in both games, considering several were reserves.
“I think they played really well against a very strong San Marcos squad,” Garcia said. “They are big, strong kids in the back.
“We really didn’t have a lot of chances, their defense is really solid.”
The Gold Pool included the teams with the most points in each of the three pools from Friday’s games.
The Silver featured Cabrillo, Lompoc and Morro Bay. The host Conquistadores defeated Morro Bay 2-1 early in the day and Lompoc shutout the Pirates 1-0. After the Conqs and Braves played to a 1-1 tie, the Braves were named the winners of the Silver after officials went to the third tie-breaker of goals allowed.
In Bronze Pool results, Pioneer Valley continued to struggle, falling to Nordhoff 1-0. The Panthers then rebounded with a 12-0 whitewashing of second-year program Crean Lutheran. With a 3-0 shutout of Crean late in the day, Nordhoff took the Bronze Pool.
The Saints now have about two weeks to get healthy. Their next game will be against their alumni team on Wednesday, Dec. 23 at 6 p.m.