With all the hype surrounding the success of the Palm Springs High School soccer team, senior David Guirguis was the first to admit that the Indians may have lost focus in their first-round CIF game Friday night.
Palm Springs was riding an unbeaten Desert Valley League campaign, a 10-game win streak and this squad had already surpassed what was accomplished last year — a trip to the postseason for the first time in seven years.
Palm Springs, now competing in the playoffs as the top team from the DVL and the third seed in the Division II playoffs, thought it was ready when it faced visiting wild-card entry Alta Loma. However, a late surge by the Braves resulted in a disappointing 2-1 loss for the Indians.
“We really weren’t focused all week,” Guirguis admitted. “It was being undefeated, playing against a third-place team and we tend to get out on top and think it’s over. It’s one of those things you try to fix.”
It was working early for Palm Springs. Just five minutes into the game, Ian Becker knocked in a goal off a pass from Hugo Vinales.
However, Alta Loma tallied twice within a span of two minutes. Colin Gunby pushed his way in front of a scrum and scored. With 11 minutes to go, teammate Jacob Salas was in a similar position. A hard pass from Steven Loera fell directly to Salas, who tallied the eventual winner.
Palm Springs (18-3-5) controlled the high-intensity game in the first half, but it was the focus that Alta Loma had on Indians’ Vinales that kept Palm Springs on its heels as the game wore on.
Vinales was often double- and triple-teamed and that gave Alta Loma a spark heading into the second half.
“I just told my guys to keep going at them,” said Alta Loma coach Ryan McConnell, whose team finished third in the Baseline League, but improves to 18-5-5 overall. “I thought we’d get to them earlier, but Hugo is one of the best I’ve seen. They couldn’t get him the ball and with a player of his caliber, you have to make them beat you with other guys.”
Alta Loma kept the pressure on and although Palm Springs had its chances, Braves’ goaltender Oswaldo Martinez (eight saves) was able to keep the Indians off the board for the remainder of the game.
Gio Castillo just missed late in the game and Mario Cordero, Meng Sey, Guirguis and David Canas also stood out down the stretch but the Indians ran out of time.
“This was a long road for us,” Guirguis said. “We’ve found success and we had a special team this year. We’re just going to keep getting better.”
Coach Jimmy Jordan agreed.
“Their goalie made some good saves and we had opportunities that we should have finished,” he said. “We put a few straight in his hands. But, we took a huge step this year. Last year we got into the playoffs and this year we won DVL. We’re going to keep building and learn how to win in the postseason.”