Mesa back in playoffs

COSTA MESA — Now this, the Costa Mesa High boys' soccer team can get used to.

The Mustangs dumped a bucket of water on Coach Alex Cordoba's head after Thursday's 1-1 tie against cross-town rival Estancia.

Moments later, they broke out a "CIF" chant Mesa hadn't been able to use since the senior class was in the third grade.

For the first time since 2002, Costa Mesa is headed to the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

"Our goal was just to improve every year," said Cordoba, the third-year coach. "We wanted to just bring the program back to being recognized in the county."

Corboda said the Mustangs (8-9-4, 4-4-2 in league) finish in third place in the six-team Orange Coast League, behind league champion Godinez and second-place Saddleback. They await Monday's release of the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoff pairings.

Estancia (3-14-3, 1-8-1) sees its run of four straight league titles come to an end. The Eagles also fail to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Mesa had defeated Estancia, 4-1, in the teams' first meeting of the year Jan. 26. It was the first time the Mustangs had beat the Eagles in nearly four years.

Last-place Estancia responded well in the second Battle for the Bell game at Jim Scott Stadium, keeping it scoreless until deep in the second half when the Mustangs broke through on a corner kick.

Senior Dong-Gi Shin's short ball found junior midfielder Kevin Parra at the near post. Parra cleanly struck the ball, scoring in the 64th minute. His second goal in league fired up the Mesa home sideline.

"I saw on the front of the post it was empty," Shin said. "There was no Estancia players. We had two formations; one is a long ball and two is a short ball. I saw the empty place and I saw Kevin in there, and I called No. 2."

Estancia seemed to be unraveling after committing a foul in the box three minutes later. Cordoba called on senior goalie Luis Sandoval, who had just entered the game in relief of Peter Salas, to take the penalty kick.

Sandoval, who played at Estancia two years ago, got a chance to stick it to his former team. He nearly did, but the shot hit the crossbar.

"I just wanted him to have that glory," Cordoba said.

Mesa kept the pressure on and nearly scored in the 68th minute, but junior forward Jorge Sanchez's long blast from the left also glanced off the bar.

"It's not over yet!" Estancia junior defender Carlos Ramirez yelled, and he was right.

The Eagles got the equalizer five minutes later off a 35-yard free kick from Carlos Moreno. Fellow junior Alexis Plata headed it in at the far post.

It was Estancia's only goal in its last three league games. The Eagles had to be content with the tie and knowing they played better in the second half of the season. They tied Godinez, 2-2, on Feb. 2, the only blemish for the Grizzlies, who finished 9-0-1 in league.

"It's been an unlucky season, I guess you could say," Estancia Coach Robert Castellano said. "We couldn't pull it together in time for league. By the time we did pull it together, it was a little too late."

The Mustangs were also content to take it easy, using plenty of subs, especially after receiving a couple of yellow cards in the first half. They knew the bigger picture, CIF, is ahead.

The last time Costa Mesa made the CIF playoffs was also in Division IV. The Mustangs were in the Pacific Coast League in 2002, and it was the second year of back-to-back league titles.

Cordoba knows his current side can be dangerous in the postseason as well.

"I think even though we're third place [in league], I think we're confident on facing a first-place team in any other league and just giving them a challenge," Cordoba said.

Salas made eight saves Thursday, and Estancia senior goalie Edgar Vega made six.

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