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Huntington Beach boys’ soccer stalled by Servite in CIF semifinals

Huntington Beach goalkeeper Daniel Kotkosky (1) is unable to stop a goal by Servite's Joseph Moyer (7).
Huntington Beach goalkeeper Daniel Kotkosky (1) is unable to stop a goal by Servite’s Joseph Moyer (7) during the first half in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal match in Anaheim on Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Players fell to their knees and onto their backs, spent in every way imaginable at the end of a remarkable run.

The deepest playoff run in the history of the Huntington Beach High School boys’ soccer program fell short of the ultimate goal — a CIF Southern Section championship — but it was one the team won’t soon forget.

Top-seeded Servite scored two first-half goals to do in visiting Huntington Beach 2-0 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals on Tuesday.

“The core of [this team] has been together,” Huntington Beach coach Sean Dick said. “It’s the farthest that any Huntington Beach team has gone in the history of the school is the semifinals of CIF, and we did it in Division 1, so I’m very proud of the boys. The path to get to here was brutal for us. It was great for the experience. You only get better playing better teams.”

Huntington Beach's Kalani Delarole, left, competes against Servite in a CIF Division 1 semifinal match on Tuesday.
Huntington Beach’s Kalani Delarole, left, competes against Servite during the second half in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal match in Anaheim on Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Dick lamented seeing his players go through the heartbreak of the loss, just the third of the season for the No. 4-seeded Oilers. Huntington Beach (16-3-6) went a step further than their trip to the section quarterfinals last season.

Servite (20-2-2), the Trinity League champion, got on the scoreboard when senior midfielder Eduardo Villeda — the Friars’ set-piece taker of choice — roped a left-footed strike past senior goalkeeper Daniel Kotkosky in the 21st minute.

“Ever since I came to Servite, I knew we had a great legacy,” Villeda said. “After we won the CIF finals in my sophomore year, I knew that I wanted to win at least one more time, and now that I’m a senior, I’m a leader, and we have our brothers with us, I feel like we can do it, and we’re just 80 minutes away from winning another CIF championship.”

It would be a busy afternoon for Kotkosky, who stopped nine shots in defeat. Servite doubled its lead in the 33rd minute, Joseph Moyer finishing on the doorstep after Luke DaVanon crossed a ball in from the left to Anthony Campbell.

Huntington Beach's Max Milo (20), left, and Matthew Finemel (6), right, battle Servite's Dylan Graham (12).
Huntington Beach’s Max Milo (20), left, and Matthew Finemel (6), right, battle Servite’s Dylan Graham (12) during the second half in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal match in Anaheim on Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Huntington Beach, the Wave League champion, had little in the way of scoring opportunities until the final minutes. A pair of free kicks by Teddy Melitas had sought the heads of teammates earlier in the second half but could not be put on target.

At long last, the Oilers put their first shot on goal in the 74th minute when Melitas chose to go direct toward Servite goalkeeper Merrick Cook (two saves) with a 25-yard free kick.

A minute later, Huntington Beach had its best scoring opportunity of the match. Up from his center back position, Reid Fisher lofted a cross from the left side to the back post. Grant James got there, but Cook was equal to the task, both arms over his head to deny the in-close bid.

Fisher also saved a third goal from going in with a slide back towards his team’s goal line to boot the ball outside the right post after it had been chipped in behind Kotkosky in the 54th minute.

Huntington Beach's Bradley Kirkman (12) heads the ball against Servite's Kevin Sanchez (11) during the first half.
Huntington Beach’s Bradley Kirkman (12) heads the ball against Servite’s Kevin Sanchez (11) during the first half in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal match in Anaheim on Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Heavy rain began to fall just as the match ended, giving way to a double rainbow east of the field. Melitas saw it as a good omen with the Oilers having at least one more match to play.

“It’s raining now, so I guess it’s kind of symbolic as an end to our CIF journey,” Melitas said. “It ends with rain just to kind of wash away everything and start anew for the [CIF State Southern California Regional playoffs].”

The CIF State office will release the brackets for its soccer regional championships on Sunday.

Servite had dropped the regular season meeting to Huntington Beach 2-0 on Dec. 16, but the Friars applied pressure on the ball to their advantage in the rematch.

Huntington Beach's Nico Ruiz , left, competes against Servite in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal on Tuesday.
Huntington Beach’s Nico Ruiz , left, competes against Servite during the first half in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal match in Anaheim on Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“We knew that we needed to get numbers around the ball in midfield to create chances,” Servite coach Eddie Soto said. “That type of defensive work, we were rewarded in the offensive end of things. That [accounted] for the shots that we had, the chances we had, and obviously getting two goals from it.”

Servite will oppose Trinity League rival JSerra in the Division 1 championship match. The Lions beat Manhattan Beach Mira Costa 2-0 on the road in their semifinal.

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Updates

10:58 a.m. Feb. 23, 2022: This story has been updated with additional post-game interviews.


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