Boys' Soccer: Sage Hill falls in second round

NEWPORT COAST — In the visiting stands at Sage Hill School, a man kept yelling, "Ánimo!" Ánimo was the boys' soccer team Sage Hill played in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs on Wednesday.

Ánimo is a Spanish word meaning to have courage. There is no doubt the school from Inglewood played with a lot spirit on the field, especially on the offensive end.

Sage Hill first-year coach Luis Turcios said he was well aware that Ánimo was a top-notch team that could score goals in bunches.

"In the first round of the playoffs, [Ánimo] beat [Sun Valley Village Christian], 14-1," Turcios said.

Turcios' side held Ánimo to half that amount of goals, but it was more than enough for second-seeded Ánimo to get past the Lightning, 7-3, and advance to the quarterfinals.

Ánimo reminded Turcios of a club team, and he would know with his coaching background with the Orange County-based Pateadores. He said Ánimo was by far the best team Sage Hill (11-8-1) faced this season.

"We came in and tried to make a stand in the back," Turcios said, "and it worked out for us a little while."

The Lightning hung with Ánimo for the first 20 minutes, an impressive feat considering Ánimo had only dropped two of its previous 23 matches.

Sage Hill's Will Burns evened the score at 1-1 after converting a penalty kick, but Ánimo (21-2-1) went on to record the next three goals.

Sage Hill's defense had to deal with more than just one prolific scorer. Ánimo featured three and one of those was Jesus Gutierrez. He wore glasses and his feet always seemed to find the ball in perfect position to strike the ball.

The senior striker produced three of Ánimo's first four goals. His third goal came two minutes into the second half. He knocked in a rebound after Sage Hill goalkeeper Adam Ellinson blocked the initial shot.

Ellinson was everywhere, using his 6-foot-2 frame to make saves. He made so many saves that Oscar Garcia, an assistant coach, said Ellinson finished with 30.

It was more like 20, which is still a lot of saves. One of those came on a penalty kick in the first half, allowing Sage Hill to go into the break only down, 3-1.

While Ánimo's players kicked the ball around during halftime to stay warm on a cold night, Burns gathered his teammates. He tried to tell them Sage Hill was still in the match.

Burns, a team captain, always talks to the players before Turcios addresses the team.

The talk seemed to work. Sage Hill answered Ánimo's first two goals in the second half.

Danny Lee kept it a two-goal deficit with a nice rolling shot toward the left, toward the far post, which a diving Celestino Cruz couldn't get to and stop the ball. Lee scored, even with a defender hanging on him in the 57th minute.

Then another of Ánimo's talented players, Juan Arellano, found the back of the net. It was the first of his three second-half goals.

Burns produced his second goal with his head. He flicked the ball toward the far post after receiving a long and precise free kick from Dakshin Jandhyala. Sage Hill got as close as 5-3, before Ánimo closed it out with two late goals by Arellano.

At one point, the scoreboard showed Ánimo ahead, 17-3. Sometimes it felt that way with Ánimo controlling possession and creating a couple of dozen scoring chances.

"I'm looking forward to next year," said Turcios, whose team was unable to become the first to knock off Ánimo since Dec. 20. "We were telling the boys, 'We don't have any seniors. Everybody's coming back.'"

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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