The letters across the Pasadena Poly boys’ soccer team’s warmup tops spelled out Polytechnic Soccer.
Pyrotechnic Soccer might have been more fitting on Tuesday, when the visiting Panthers exploded for two goals in the first eight minutes and went on to record a 4-0 victory over Sage Hill in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs.
The four goals were double the previous best output by a Sage Hill opponent this season and represented more than 50% of the total tallies (seven) allowed by the Lightning (15-2-2) in its previous 18 contests.
Pasadena Poly (13-3-4) took advantage of defensive mistakes to bury the hosts early and was never challenged again.
Panthers senior forward Ali Kamar set up the first and fourth goals and scored the second and third to thoroughly outplay a Sage Hill defense that had been sharp all season.
Sage Hill finished with seven shots, just better than half of the 13 produced by Pasadena Poly.
But most of the Panthers’ chances induced gasps of concern from the Lightning rooters, while few if any Sage Hill shots prompted Pasadena Poly’s players, coaches or fans to raise an eyebrow.
“That’s sports,” first-year Sage Hill coach Gabriel Lucatero said. “You prepare to play, you go out and play and you wait and see what the outcome is. Today, it was obviously not in our favor.”
Kamal, on the other hand had things pretty much his own way, especially early.
He rolled a pass onto the foot of sophomore Jack Queen near the end of the sixth minute that Queen, streaking through a gap in the defense, directed past the goalkeeper with little problem for the game-winning goal.
Not quite two minutes later, Kamal spun around a baffled defender just inside the box, walked in and blasted a low shot that went through the grasp of the charging goalkeeper and trickled into the net to double the margin.
The visitors controlled play most of the rest of the first half, until Kamal punched a pass from the right wing down the right sideline, where it was run onto by Hunter Worland. Worland directed a cross in front and senior Jack Kayyem, who had entered the game for the first time just moments earlier, connected with the ball near his shin. The ball popped upward, off the underside of the crossbar and in to make it 3-0 in the 44th minute.
The Prep League champions finalized the scoring when Queen converted an assist by freshman Zealand McLean in the 73rd minute to send the Panthers into the quarterfinals.
“My defender made a couple of mistakes and was beaten twice,” Lucatero said of the first two goals. “But take nothing away from their forward. [Kamal] is a good player, a really good player. [Kamal] obviously knows how to position his body to keep the defender from the ball. He kept my defender off the ball and gave them a chance to score.”
Sage junior forward Nikolai Sadeghi, who came in with 25 goals and 13 assists on the season and was the focus of consistent double-team defensive attention Tuesday, was held to one shot.
Senior Dakshin Jandhyala, junior Anthony Gil (two shots each), junior Zach Burns and sophomore Gabriel Gamboa also had shots for the hosts, who compiled the best record in school history.
“It was a great group of kids that I was fortunate to work with,” Lucatero said. “They obviously performed well and their record speaks for their performance.”
Lucatero also credited his players for buying into a new system that he installed, which, he said was very different than the one used by the previous coach.
“At this point in time, I plan on coming back next season and picking up where we left off,” Lucatero said. “We want to make a run past the second round next season.”
Also back figures to be junior Milad Rohani, who had 14 goals and two assists this season to rank second behind Sadeghi’s 63 points with 30.
Junior Juan Rodriguez (eight goals and three assists) is also among those slated to return, while the departing senior class includes talented goalkeeper Adam Ellingson (0.515 goals-against average with four saves Tuesday), strong defender Will Burns, defensive midfielder Jandhyala (seven goals and 10 assists), forward Kavi Sakraney (nine goals and three assists), and midfielder Danny Lee (one goal and 12 assists).