Derek Orkney was hired in December of 2013. Shadow Hills High School boys’ soccer team had begun the season 1-3, then lost three of its next five to stumble to a 3-6 start. Orkney took over the program following the winter break.
Two weeks later, a victory over Yucca Valley ignited a nine-game unbeaten streak. The Knights made the postseason and the streak eventually came to an end.
A year later, Orkney and the Knights reached the Division 7 quarterfinals.
Now, in his third year, Orkney has Shadow Hills positioned for more. With a dominant 5-1 win over Maranatha on Friday, the Knights will play in the California Interscholastic Federation semifinals on Tuesday at Flintridge Prep, the team that beat Rancho Mirage in overtime on Friday.
With a win over Flintridge Prep, the Knights would reserve a spot in the CIF final next week, where they would face De Anza League rival Desert Mirage in an all-valley championship of sorts, provided the Rams win their semifinal game next week.
“It just depends which of our teams shows up,” Orkney said. “If we play like this, we have a good chance of winning.”
To get to the this point, Shadow Hills had to beat Nogales in overtime in the second round. The Knights also needed overtime to beat Rubidoux in overtime in the first round.
Before this year, no team in the program’s short history had ever made such a deep run into the postseason. The majority of the players on the squad have been around since Orkney’s first year, and the team has grown together.
“We have good chemistry, real good chemistry,” said senior winger Daniel Vasquez. “We know each other from club and all that. We made the team and came together and we’re successful now.”
That cohesiveness was on display from the first minutes of the game. Ramon Bustamante scored in the opening minutes to give the Knights a 1-0 edge, and teammate Hugo Herrera followed with a goal to give Shadow Hills a 2-0 lead at the half.
Maranatha scored on a penalty kick to bring the game within striking distance, but midfielder Jose Hernandez drilled the ball from 20 yards out into the back of the net to provide separation. Vasquez and Hernandez then put the finishing touches on the victory with goals in the final 15 minutes, as the Knights continued pushing the tempo in front of a boisterous crowd of more than 250.
“This kind of win is a little easier on the heart,” Orkney said.
Orkney said his squad has been “consistently lucky” in postseason this year. But Friday’s win was more than luck. The coach admits as much. And if the Knights can again play like they did in this quarterfinal game, they’ll have a shot to play for a CIF title.
It’s a long way from being 3-6 to start the 2013-14 season.
“This is what we wanted all along,” Vasquez said. “We just wanted a shot to do something like this.”
Shadow Hills at Flintridge Prep (Tuesday, 3 p.m.)
Covina at Desert Mirage (Tuesday, 3 p.m.)
La Quinta at Oxnard (Tuesday, 3 p.m.)