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Santa Margarita Lets Game Slip Away


RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA — Maybe Santa Margarita should have fallen behind by two goals. The Eagles took a one-goal lead into the second half, but couldn't hold off a determined Arroyo Grande team and lost, 2-1, Tuesday in the semifinals of the Southern Section Division III playoffs.

"It just seemed like everybody was too happy at halftime," Santa Margarita forward Brian Piesner said. "It didn't seem like we had the right attitude coming into the second half."

In the second round, Santa Margarita trailed top-seeded Alta Loma, 2-0, but rebounded to win, 3-2. But Tuesday, Arroyo Grande seemed to have the determination, poise and luck.

Fourth-seeded Arroyo Grande (22-4-3) tied the score two minutes into the second half on a blast from the right angle by David Gomez. Then with 15 minutes left in regulation, Gomez kicked another blast that caromed off the crossbar right to Martin Leon, who easily headed the ball past Santa Margarita goalkeeper Sean Spreen.

"They hit the post and it comes right back to the middle of the field and we hit the post and it goes wide," Santa Margarita Coach Curt Bauer said. "Luck has a lot to do with this game."

But luck didn't cause Arroyo Grande to outshoot Santa Margarita, 13-6. Arroyo Grande passed the ball better than Santa Margarita, which seemed intent on dribbling through crowds instead of looking for help from teammates.

"We haven't been this far in a while and a lot of the younger guys might have felt the pressure," Bauer said. "They gave us a lot of room on the sides but we weren't passing through."

Piesner said his team may have put too much pressure on itself.

"We were up for this game," said Piesner, who will play college soccer at Rutgers next year. "I thought we'd come out and play better. They seemed to handle the situation better than we did.

"It was getting frustrating. Trying to make that one final run that would tie it and the ball would come off your feet. You could see the rest of the guys become frustrated too."

An ankle injury to second-leading scorer Chon Kontikovit early in the second half might have added to the Eagles' frustration. Kontikovit had scored four goals in the Eagles' first three playoff games but he did not play the last 30 minutes.

"That hurt," Bauer said. "Chon was playing a great game and he's one of our senior leaders."

Senior Robert Taylor scored Santa Margarita's only goal with seconds remaining in the half on a slow roller that got past Arroyo Grande goalkeeper Salvador Rivas, who appeared to be screened.

Santa Margarita, which won a section title in 1993, finished the season 16-7-2.

"This was a great team," Gomez said. "They played us harder than anybody has all season."

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