Sam Strong’s goal in the 68th minute was the difference on Tuesday evening at Warkentin Stadium, where San Marcos’ boys soccer team defeated Santa Barbara 1-0 for its first win over the Dons since February of 2005.
In the process, the Royals extended their unbeaten streak to five games, including points in four straight Channel League games.
“We’re grinders. You know, we’re blue collar – a blue-collar team,” said Royals head coach Matt Winecki.
It was the first loss of the Channel League season for the Dons, who have two games remaining. If they win those two, the league title is Santa Barbara’s.
The Dons have their own destiny in their control but Thursday’s result made it a three-team race going into the final week of the regular season.
Thursday’s victory gives San Marcos a 4-1-2 record compared to Santa Barbara’s 4-1-1 mark.
Santa Barbara faces Dos Pueblos on Tuesday of next week followed by Ventura on Thursday. San Marcos meets Buena on Tuesday.
Freshman goal keeper Justin Vom Steeg came up with a handful of saves to keep Santa Barbara off the scoreboard.
“If we fall behind, it’s a different game. So keeping the game level really helped us get that goal,” Vom Steeg said.
Strong capitalized on one of San Marcos’ few chances, as the Dons outshot the Royals 13-1 in the game.
“It’s really tough to just keep missing and not getting that goal in,” said Santa Barbara captain Alberto Hernandez. “But we gotta get our heads up and we gotta look up to DP.”
A defensive gaffe handed Strong the opportunity at the top of the penalty box and he took a low-left shot while moving to his right.
It was the first game-winner against the Dons for a San Marcos player since Robert Rios on February 8, 2005 in another 1-0 decision.
“They had one shot and they scored it,” said Dons head coach Todd Heil. “Call it opportunistic; call it what you will. I thought we played great in the second half.”