Xavier Prep won its last two regular season Desert Valley League games by a combined score of 36-1 to narrowly reach the California Interscholastic Federation playoffs.
On Tuesday in the Saints’ wild card game, Xavier advanced with the same dominance, defeating Cathedral Catholic, 22-6, at the Palm Desert Aquatic Center.
Every Saint scored and goalie Justin Wickstrand had seven saves as Xavier overcame a slow start to advance to Wednesday’s first round game in Division 6.
The reward for the effort will be a matchup with Los Amigos, the top seed in the division, at Garden Grove.
“We started slow, and we need to fix that because the competition is going to get much tougher,” Xavier head coach Pavol Valovic said. “But we picked it up and played hard in the second half, and we are starting to play our best this season.”
Troy Boydston led Xavier with eight goals, and Jackson Castillo and Kole Dempster each scored three. Brandon Sontz and Kyle Cenicola scored to apiece.
The Saints led, 9-2, at halftime, then scored 10 consecutive goals to start the third quarter. It was one of Xavier’s best performances of the season, and it came at the right time.
The Saints began the year unable to piece together a winning streak. They’d win a match, then lose one. Consecutive wins didn’t come until DVL play, when they defeated Palm Springs and Indio by a combined score of 41-7. The next win streak didn;t come until that last two games of the regular season, but Valovic said the signs of improvement have been evident. Xavier hasn’t lost by more than three goals since Oct. 8 — a stretch of 14 games.
“When we started, I think not many people were on the same page,” Valovic said. “Now we know where guys are going to be, where to pass the ball, and I think we are starting to gel. We’ve really improved over the season, and that was our goal.”
The Saints (16-12, 8-3 DVL) ultimately reached the playoffs, and are playing their best, with their longest win streak of the season, but Wednesday’s game will be the biggest test to date.
“Anytime you play a team from Huntington Beach and that area of Orange County, it’s going to be a tough match,” Valovic said. “But we’re getting better as a team and if we stay focused and do the things we need to do, I think it’s going to be a good game.”