Huntington Beach boys’ soccer tops San Clemente on penalty kicks
Between the Huntington Beach High School boys’ soccer team and the dark sky above, it was hard to tell which had more energy at the end of Tuesday’s match at San Clemente.
After Daniel Kotkosky’s second save of the penalty-kick shootout, the Oilers rushed to the north goal to greet their goalkeeper who had secured his team safe passage into the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals just as the first lightning strikes of a thunderstorm began to roll through.
Huntington Beach topped San Clemente 4-2 on penalty kicks, capping a riveting second-round affair in the Division 1 playoffs that, at times, was played in a torrential downpour.
Teddy Melitas, Kotkosky, Tyler Kakimoto and Kalani Delarole netted their penalty kicks in succession for Huntington Beach (15-2-6), which has now gone to extra time in three of five playoff contests over the past two seasons.
“It reminds me of the Tustin game [in the second round] last year when we won in overtime,” Kakimoto said. “I’ve been playing at this level for three years, and I’ve never been in penalties, so that was a different experience for me.”
Huntington Beach will play host to Sea View League champion Aliso Niguel (14-0-3) on Friday at 5 p.m. The Wolverines earned a 2-0 win at San Marcos in their second-round match.
It was a jaw-dropping first overtime — one that the Oilers were fortunate to escape. Kotkosky had to lay out to block a shot to his left as a play unfolded from a corner kick. Shortly thereafter, Timeus Truman shot across his body, sending his bid off the inside of the right post, but it stayed out.
Melitas began the shootout with a low shot inside the left post, and then another bout of adversity was thrown at the Oilers.
Lucas Echeverria took the first penalty kick for San Clemente (11-3-4). His shot was stopped by the right hand of Kotkosky, but the officials ruled that he came off his line early. Echeverria converted the retry.
Immediately following that course of events, Kotkosky went on the offensive. Stepping up to the spot, the senior goalkeeper chopped his steps before confidently striking the ball into the top right corner.
“When they [made the ruling], I was pretty surprised,” Kotkosky said. “I just had to go back. It didn’t really throw me off too much. I knew I had to go up and take another penalty right after that, so I just had to keep my composure, just keep going and trust myself.”
Kotkosky’s heroics continued later in the shootout, as he stopped the last two shots he faced — by Elijah Greene and Aidan Tarango — making one save in each direction.
Huntington Beach employed a direct style of play after halftime, and it nearly paid dividends right away. Two minutes into the second half, Steven Venetantis played Carson Dykes in behind the San Clemente defense, but Tritons goalkeeper Ryan Savoie (six saves) turned away the scoring opportunity.
Tarango broke a scoreless tie in the 51st minute, much to the delight of a strong turnout of San Clemente supporters. The crowd noise posed a challenge to communicate on the field.
“We need to learn to hear each other’s voice, and just my voice,” Huntington Beach coach Sean Dick said. “You always have screaming fans. I said, ‘Just think about when you go play in college and there’s 4,000 screaming fans in the stands. You better learn to listen for each other. Stop listening to the fans. Start listening to your teammates.’”
In need of an equalizer, the Oilers got it in the 65th minute. Reid Fisher got the first touch on a throw-in, taking a shot that landed at the feet of Dykes, who got redemption with the tying goal.
“They were quicker to support than we were,” Dick said of his team’s second-half approach. “They were better to support their teammates, and we had to adjust on that if we were going to keep the game open, because they were very good in the midfield. If we were going to keep the game open, we were going to have to stretch the game and support the first and second ball, and we got in a couple times because of it.”
In their prior meeting this season, the Oilers and Tritons played to a 1-1 draw in a nonleague match at San Clemente on Dec. 6.
“I think as the game progressed, they got more into it and played more like themselves,” San Clemente coach Chris Murray said of his team. “They played with good energy to try to win it, which was good and admirable.”
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