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Rivals Costa Mesa, Estancia remain tied for Orange Coast League’s final boys’ soccer playoff berth

Costa Mesa's Christopher Sandoval, right, makes a move on Estancia's Alex DeLeon going for a loose ball.
Costa Mesa’s Christopher Sandoval, right, makes a move on Estancia’s Alex DeLeon going for a loose ball during the Battle for the Bell boys’ soccer game on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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In a crosstown rivalry, it goes without saying that both sides want to win, but given their place in the standings, a win over the other could have meant much more than bragging rights to the Costa Mesa and Estancia boys’ soccer teams.

As was the case in their prior meeting this season, the Mustangs and Eagles played to a scoreless draw to cap the Battle for the Bell series on Wednesday night at Jim Scott Stadium.

Costa Mesa (5-14-4, 3-3-2, 11 points) and Estancia (3-10-3, 3-3-2, 11 points) remain tied for the fourth and final automatic postseason bid in the Orange Coast League with four matches remaining.

Costa Mesa's Carlos Alcala is tripped up as he defends against Estancia on Wednesday.
Costa Mesa’s Carlos Alcala is tripped up as he defends against Estancia during the Battle for the Bell game on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I was proud of the boys,” Estancia coach Robert Castellano said. “We need to be optimistic. I didn’t want to finish on a sour note. I know they were burning inside. We were playing for the win. [Costa] Mesa played really hard. They defended really well.

“I have a lot of confidence in our boys. I feel like they’re going to perform the next four games, we’re going to get a result, and we’re going to do our best to get to playoffs.”

Santa Ana (11-5-3, 6-0-1, 19 points) leads the pack, with Saddleback (5-4-7, 4-1-2, 14 points) and St. Margaret’s (9-5, 4-4, 12 points) also holding down playoff spots. Orange (4-10-3, 2-5-1, seven points) is in sixth and Calvary Chapel (3-11, 1-7, three points) is in last place.

“We knew that this game is key to make CIF,” Costa Mesa coach Santiago Guzman said. “The result is not what we expected, but it’s also not a bad result. Now, we need to really make sure that we beat Calvary [Chapel] with a goal differential, because that’s what it is. We’re tied for fourth place, but because of the goal differential, they’re on top of us. We’re still depending on ourselves, as well as depending on what they do.”

Estancia's Brandon Garcia (14) makes a move on Costa Mesa's Roman Serpas (2) for a shot on goal on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Neither side could break through, but there was a noticeable uptick in the pace of the game over the final 15 minutes, as both sides looked to stretch the field and create the hard-to-come-by scoring chance.

When Costa Mesa had its opportunities via sideline runs or free kicks, it was often cleaned up by Estancia goalkeeper Cesar Pedroza before a Mustang could get a touch in the box.

Pedroza made three saves — two on direct free kicks by Kevin Perez-Cruz, and the other a bid by Mario Tapia in the 75th minute. He also shut down the Mustangs’ best opportunity to get on the scoreboard, catching a right-to-left aerial cross by senior midfielder Christian Guzman before junior center back Aidan Markert could get his head to it in the 52nd minute.

Estancia's Alex DeLeon (2) makes a steal against Costa Mesa during the Battle for the Bell game on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Estancia has scored 15 goals in 16 matches, nearly half of that production coming in a 7-0 win over Calvary Chapel on Jan. 13. It did not help matters when forward Brandon Garcia appeared to battle cramps in the second half.

Before the final whistle, the Eagles produced one last chance. Pedroza blasted a goal kick beyond the midfield stripe. Christian Gomez ran onto it and forced the Mustangs to concede a corner kick. Alex DeLeon took the set piece, sending it into the box for Gabe Johner, but Ethan Smithlin saved the header.

“I was really proud of our first-half performance,” Castellano said. “The second half, to the fans, it was probably exciting because it was just back-and-forth. It was just too much back-and-forth, too much transition. … Not enough possessing and moving the ball around.”

Costa Mesa's Roman Serpas (2) is knocked down by Estancia's Esteban Esquivel (6) as they meet at the ball on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Costa Mesa is enjoying its best stretch of the season, having won three in a row coming into Wednesday’s action.

The Mustangs’ back line of Miguel Reyes, Daniel Henriquez, Markert and Perez-Cruz, along with defensive midfielder Roman Serpas, helped Smithlin (two saves) record a clean sheet.

“I’m honestly really proud of the boys for this four-game unbeaten streak,” Markert said. “I think we’ve shown a lot of improvement throughout the course of the season, and the only way is up.”

Estancia's Esa Asmraz (7) takes a shot on Costa Mesa goalie Ethan Smithlin, who makes the stop on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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