By Michael Huntley
Photo Credit: Greg Andersen
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO >> The Servite boys soccer team beat Trinity League foe JSerra in penalty kicks Friday to win its second CIF-SS Division 1 championship in three seasons.
The two teams were tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation and played two scoreless overtime periods. The Friars beat the Lions in penalty kicks 3-0.
CIF Champs!!!!!! 💍 🏆 pic.twitter.com/05yuVHTXt9— Servite Soccer (@ServiteSoccer) February 26, 2022
Servite coach Eddie Soto was going to give goalkeeper Merrick Cook a shot at redemption after allowing the game-tying goal in the final minutes of regulation.
Soto had Cook designated to take the fifth shot during penalty kicks. Cook made sure that wouldn’t be necessary by saving all three of JSerra’s penalty kick attempts to seal the victory.
“I grabbed him and said, ‘Are you ready to redeem yourself? You’re our fifth shooter,’” Soto said. “He told me, ‘I’m going to redeem myself with saves,’ and I told him to go do it and he did.”
“Coach said to believe. I was nervous at the beginning of the game, but it all paid off and I had belief in myself,” Cook said. “I knew they were going that way so I stuck with my choices and made the saves.”
Cook, a Cal State Northridge signee, came out of the cage numerous times and made saves on corner kicks and long throw-in attempts. He played in nine games as a sophomore, the last time Servite won the Division 1 championship in 2020.
“This senior group has been together for four years and won two. I love this group,” Cook said. “This has always been the goal for us and it’s a huge accomplishment.”
Servite (21-2-2) had beaten JSerra handedly twice in the regular season. Friday’s game was much more evenly matched with both teams having plenty of chances to score.
The Friars struck first in the 26th minute with a goal from Cal State Northridge signee JT Danks. It was his fourth goal of the season and his first since the team’s last game against JSerra.
JSerra (17-4-1) had many near-scoring attempts and finally put one through in the 77th minute. There was a scrum in front of the goal after a set piece and freshman Gavin Allegaert scored to tie the game at 1-1.
“They were extremely disciplined and it was hard to break them down,” Soto said of JSerra. “They disrupted the game by their style of play and it kept us from getting into our rhythm.”
Eddie Villeda, Lucas Gimenez and Justin Faison made their penalty kicks for the Friars after the two scoreless overtime periods.
This is Servite’s third CIF championship in school history and the first for Soto. The Friars lost in the Division 1 semifinals in 2021.
“All the kids bought in, from our frosh/soph team, to our JV to our varsity team,” Soto said. “The whole program was here tonight celebrating as if they were on the first team. Whether it’s my first year, second year or 10th year here, winning is fun and never gets old.”