GSoc: Dons play Buena to a draw; clinch 2nd place, playoff berth

Santa Barbara High punched its ticket to the CIF girls soccer playoffs with a stellar effort against Channel League-champion Buena on Tuesday.

The Dons capped a late-season run by earning a 2-2 draw against the Bulldogs at Peabody Stadium. The result leaves them with 3-3-2 record, good for second place in the league standings. Buena, ranked No. 4 in CIF Division 2, finished league at 7-0-1.

Santa Barbara went 2-0-1 in its last three matches and will be going to the playoffs for the second straight year.

“This is a huge accomplishment and a fantastic achievement for this group of young ladies,” Santa Barbara coach Jeff Johnson said. “After the first round of the league, we were in fourth place, had no team chemistry and was a ship going in the wrong direction. We had three games left and needed two wins and a tie.

“These last three games speak for themselves,” he continued. “Good and great teams and programs find ways to end up in the front at the end of races and these Lady Dons deserve a lot of credit, even when many things were stacked up against them.”

Santa Barbara got off to a terrific start Tuesday, taking a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute. Alea Hyatt put a perfectly weighted ball between two defenders and Jackie Lopez ran onto it, took a couple of dribbles and beat the goalkeeper to the far post.

Ten minutes later, the Dons stunned the Bulldogs again. Hyatt picked up another loose ball in the midfield and smartly chipped over Buena’s back row. Lopez got behind the defenders, played the ball off a bounce and volleyed it past a charging goalkeeper.

Buena came out hard in the second half and put heavy pressure on the Dons.

“We held on for 26 minutes but during that time we just were not solid in the middle of the field like we had been in the first half and we kept giving the ball away. And we made poor decisions when to go back and when to go forward,” Johnson said. “Buena was relentless down the right side of the field and finally capitalized in the 68th minute.”

Santa Barbara stepped up its play and created chances to go up 3-1. But the Dons missed a 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper, misfired on a penalty shot and missed in front of Buena’s goal

The Bulldogs scored the equalizer with three minutes remaining.

While the Dons were happy to get a point against the league champions, they were disappointed they didn’t get the win, Johnson noted. “I felt our team was disappointed with the result tonight, which is good but at the same time I wanted them to know that our goal was at least a point and that we received.”

The Dons (10-5-5 overall) also got help from Ventura, which knocked off San Marcos, 3-1. Had the Royals won, they would have tied Santa Barbara with 11 points.