By Lou Ponsi
Photo Credit: Leonard Ortiz
WESTMINSTER — Servite’s Jahir Gonzalez-Sandoval scored a game-tying goal with nine minutes remaining in the a CIF Southern California Regional semifinal against Mira Costa on Thursday night at Westminster High School.
Gonzalez-Sandoval’s goal forced overtime as the game finished in a 1-1 tie. After a scoreless 15-minute overtime period, the game was decided on penalty kicks.
That’s when Friars goalkeeper Merrick Cook became the hero.
The Mustangs shot first and with the score at 4-4 after the first round of five kicks, each team got a sixth kick. Cook made a diving save off a shot from Thomas Temperley.
Cook then shot and scored, giving the Friars a 5-4 victory in the Division I regional semifinal.
“It’s not just what he does in goal,” Servite coach Eddie Soto said. “He has the composure with the game on the line to bury it the way he did. That is why he is going to a Division I school (Cal State Northridge) to play at the next level.”
Servite (23-2-2), the top seed, will play No. 3 seed San Pasqual in the regional final Saturday at 5 p.m. at Westminster High School.
San Pasqual defeated Birmingham 2-0 in the other regional semifinal.
The Mustangs finished their season at 16-3-4.
The Friars will play in their second regional final but will be vying for their first ever regional championship.
Servite lost to Sylmar in the regional final in 2015.
Mira Costa defeated Servite 1-0 in the regional semifinals in 2021.
Cook said he practices shooting and scored on a penalty kick in the Friars’ 5-1 victory over Millikan on Dec. 3.
“I had so much confidence to take the last one,” Cook said. “We’re looking to win the championship now.”
The Friars relied on their long game for most of the contest, making long passes to the corners, trying to get the ball to their attackers, who would then send a cross pass to the box or cut to the goal and attempt to score themselves.
But the Mustangs often double-teamed or outran the Friars’ intended targets.
The game was scoreless through the first 10 minutes of the second half, when Brett Becker scored the game’s first goal for Mira Costa.
The goal came off of a long free kick into the box, and when Servite couldn’t clear the ball, Becker took the shot in traffic and scored.
Servite’s goal came after the Mira Costa keeper couldn’t stop a shot from Kevin Sanchez.
The ball bounced off the keeper and went right to Gonzalez-Sandoval, who scored.
“Good teams find a way to come back and win and we are a damn good team and we did that today,” Soto said.