Over the past few seasons, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer program has learned all too well of the trials and tribulations that come with venturing south to face off with Orange County foes that make up the majority of CIF Southern Section Division I soccer.
Last season, the Tologs lost in the opening round of the playoffs after a trip down south. This time around, Flintridge Sacred Heart will welcome an Orange County foe to the Tologs’ confines of Occidental College and the home team is plenty happy about the situation.
“I think we are [happy about our draw], especially playing at our field,” said Tologs Coach Cesar Hidalgo, whose team will host Laguna Hills on Thursday in the first round of Division I play at Occidental College. “We know we can have a good performance against anyone on our field.”
Along with Sacred Heart, Flintridge Prep and Crescenta Valley will also host first-round playoff games after finishing second in their respective leagues, as the Tologs, Rebels and Falcons learned their playoff fates on Monday when the CIF offices unveiled playoff pairings.
Crescenta Valley will play host to San Luis Obispo, while Flintridge Prep welcomes Burroughs. All first-round games are scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m. unless a change is agreed upon.
The Tologs have already stated their game will be at 3:30 p.m. at Occidental.
Sacred Heart closed the season going unbeaten over its last six matches with a 5-0-1 mark, as its final game was a scoreless tie against Chaminade — the result coming after a Tologs goal was overturned and preventing Sacred Heart from sharing the Mission League title. Nonetheless, Hidalgo believes his team has found its stride.
“I believe we have recognized that we have a system that works for us,” Hidalgo said. “We seem to have gone in a good uptrend. I believe that having done that is going to be good for us going into CIF.”
The Tologs, who won a Division I championship in 2011 before last year’s first-round overtime loss at Capistrano Valley, which is this year’s top seed, enter the playoffs as the second place entrant from their league with a 15-1-4 overall record. Laguna Hills, having finished third in a Sea View League won by Capistrano Valley, sports a 5-10-7 record. It’s consequently the worst record in the Division I draw and Laguna is one of just two teams with a losing record in the draw.
If the Tologs move on, they will face either Century League champion Villa Park, the No. 4 seed, or JSerra, a Trinity League at-large entrant.
Like the Tologs, Flintridge Prep and Crescenta Valley are also hoping to emerge from the first round after failing to do so last season.
Prep (12-2-6), which finished second in the Prep League, will host a Burroughs team that took third in the Pacific League and boasts a 13-9-1 overall mark.
Should the Rebels prevail on Thursday, they would advance to the following week’s second round to face Diamond Bar, the Hacienda League champion, or Western, an Empire League at-large team.
Crescenta Valley recently had its string of Pacific League titles ended at four when it finished second to Arcadia. But the Falcons are hoping to end another streak, as they’ve come up short of the second round for the last two seasons.
“At this point in the game, the first round is the hardest round to get out of ... [Playing at] home ore not, everybody’s got the hope of having a postseason run,” said Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz, whose team has a 14-2-2 record. “Finishing second in league isn’t what we wanted to happen, but we’re still not out of it.”
San Luis Obispo took third in the PAC 7 League and comes into Thursday’s match with a 14-10-1 record. The winner will move on to the second round to play Pasadena Poly, the Prep League champion, or Placentia Valencia, the Empire League’s fourth-place finisher. Of course, Schulz isn’t taking the first round for granted by any means.
“This is what we play for,” Schulz said, “if we don’t get out of the first round, what’s the point?”