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Laguna Beach's Title Victory Is a Sight for Sore Eyes


CERRITOS — Laguna Beach's improbable run to its first Southern Section division boys' soccer title did not come without many a sleepless night, a lot of sweat and a career game from senior Seth Simchowitz, who was everywhere he seemingly needed to be for 80 minutes.

The Artists took a 1-0 lead on an early Chris Whitworth goal and then held on for 77 minutes to beat Pasadena La Salle Saturday at Gahr High for the Division IV title.

"I slept probably like two winks," Simchowitz said.

That's more sleep than his coach got.

"I tried counting sheep, nothing worked," first-year Coach Andy Thomas said.

The Artists (19-4-1) had a bit more luck executing their game plan than they did sleeping. Their defense, led by Simchowitz, clamped down on La Salle's speedy forwards, limiting the Lancers to six shots on goal, none of them threatening.

Simchowitz began in the midfield, his regular position, but shortly after Whitworth beat La Salle goalkeeper Dan Sheridan, who was out of position, with a left-footer from 10 yards, he moved back to sweeper.

"We knew they had a fast, offensive team," Simchowitz said. "But our young defenders stepped it up a level and showed what they're made of."

Earlier in the season, La Salle (23-2-3) defeated Laguna Beach, 2-0. But that was before Thomas' system was fully in place.

"We owe a lot to our coach," Simchowitz said. "He turned our season around."

Said Thomas, a former European soccer player who came to the United States four years ago from the Isle of Man: "This is the highlight of my career. The boys are great. I'm the lucky one."

Saturday, Thomas said he was lucky to have Simchowitz and Whitworth.

"That's Division I material, even beyond that, professional-type play," Thomas said. "Chris had three players on him for most of the day and Seth was everywhere."

Afterward Whitworth was approached by a man who said he was taking him to Europe to play professional soccer. Whitworth said he'd settle for a college scholarship. But first, he wanted to savor the moment.

"It's unbelievable," Whitworth said. "I'll remember this for the rest of my life."

Whitworth's goal came after goalkeeper Mike Labeda's kick was headed to him perfectly by midfielder Bobby Ehdaie.

"I knew he was going to win the ball so I kept running," Whitworth said. "All of a sudden, I was open. Then, all I had to do was slip it by him."

Laguna Beach didn't do much on offense after Whitworth's goal, but the way its defense played, it didn't have to.

"The last five minutes seemed like 20 minutes," Whitworth said. "I never thought it would end."

Now maybe they can get some sleep.

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