Dons bring home their first CIF Regional title, 3-0

DOWNEY — Santa Barbara made sure it wasn’t going to finish this soccer season without a CIF championship.

Flying all over the field from the opening whistle, the Dons blitzed Oak Hills 3-0 to capture the CIF Southern California Regional Division 2 championship at Warren High’s Justice Stadium. It is the program’s first regional title to go along with six section crowns.

“We didn’t expect this,” Santa Barbara coach Todd Heil said. “Our goals were a little simpler this year than last year. We just wanted to get better every game. To be honest, we were looking at quarterfinals. We moved to division 1, we lost a lot of boys and quarterfinals was kind of goal in the back of our heads. But we kept getting better and better.”

And the Dons put in a lot of miles to claim their title.

“These playoffs we’ve driven 1400 miles,” Heil noted. “We traveled 1400 miles to get where we are today to become a state regional champion, so it feels great.”

Santa Barbara made it point early that it would not have a repeat of its slow first-half performance of a week ago in a 2-1 loss to San Clemente in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 final.

The Dons (22-6-3) came out energized and had Oak Hills on its heels.  Senior midfielder Sanford Spivey tested Bulldogs’ goalkeeper Ricardo Ramirez in the first minute with a blistering shot from point-blank range. Ramirez was able to block it, but he wouldn’t be so fortunate the next time he faced Spivey.

“I felt we had more energy tonight than we had in the last two games combined,” Heil said. “We were tired on Monday, a little sluggish on Wednesday. Tonight, we had so much energy and so much excitement. The boys just wanted it, they really, really wanted it tonight.”

“That was one of our things, come out as hard as we can,” senior midfielder Tyler Schleich said. “I felt like we played some of the best soccer of the year, possessing the ball, passing it around and making them tired. We knew eventually the goals would ocme.

The first one came in the 25th minute

The Dons were in the Oak Hills box  after a corner kick. Spivey headed the ball and it went straight up in the air. As it dropped, Alfredo Ibarra poked off the hand of an Oak Hills defender and the referee called a hand-ball violation.

Spivey took the penalty kick and beat Ramirez with a shot into the lower left corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead.

Spivey and the Dons would strike again six minutes later. Right fullback Cooper Allebrand came up into the attack and served a beautiful 35-yard diagonal ball that found Spivey at the far post. Spivey headed it inside the post, giving the Dons a commanding 2-0 lead.

“I can’t remember a time we were up 2-0 at half,” said senior defender Spencer Pritchard. “That took a lot of pressure off us. That is one of best first halves we played.”

The two goals were a fitting conclusion to Spivey’s season. He missed last year’s run to a section title due to a knee injury

“He’s been huge all playoffs. This was his moment,” said Heil. “He’s made the most of these playoffs. Its just incredible what he’s done in the playofs.”

The Boston University-bound Spivey scored nine goals in the postseason, four of them game-winners.

Said Spivey: “It was a great way to end the season. I definitely had some motivation from last year sitting out, and our team had this motivation to prove something — that we’re just as good as the team we had last year— and we came out and put in a great performance. It was very enjoyable.”

Oak Hills (24-3-3) was unable to mount a serious scoring chance in the first half as Santa Barbara controlled possession and played stellar defense. The Bulldogs were outshot 7-1 in the first 40 minutes.

The Dons’ back line of Allebrand, Niko Comati,  Pritchard and Tony Alvaro dominated from the beginning of the match to the end.

Oak Hills’ Sage Smith dribbled into the box from the right side and had a good look at goal in the 73rd minute, but Pritchard smothered his shot to preserve the shutout.

Goalkeeper Miguel Solis also made a big play late in the game, leaping high and punching the ball away from the head of a Bulldog attacker.

Santa Barbara finished off the Bulldogs in the 75th minute when Edgar Ruiz collected a deflected shot and beat the goalkeeper to the far post.

This was the eighth playoff game for the Dons, who showed no signs for fatigue.

The regional title comes in a season in which Santa Barbara finished second in Channel League and second in the Southern Section.

“These boys will be able to stake their claim to history,” said Heil.