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Serna, Saddleback Run Into Some Bad Luck


A disconsolate Thomas Serna had a hard time explaining top-seeded Saddleback's heartbreaking loss to Long Beach Millikan in the second round of the Southern Section Division I playoffs, but he gave it a try.

"You can't play against luck," Serna said. "You can't fight it."

Serna's words were not sour grapes. They were the truth.

Saddleback outshot defense-minded Millikan, 21-3, including 10-0 in four overtime periods, but the Roadrunners could only put the ball in the net once and were beaten on penalty kicks, 4-3, after playing to a 1-1 tie.

Serna scored 43 goals in the regular season and two more in Saddleback's first-round victory over Long Beach Poly, but he couldn't put one past Millikan goalkeeper Javier Mendoza Wednesday.

"I just wanted one," Serna said.

It can't be said that Serna didn't have his chances. In the 15th minute of overtime, Serna's header off a free kick from Oscar Retiz, bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and bounced straight down. In sudden death, Serna had two more excellent chances on headers, but both floated over the crossbar.

"It just wouldn't go in, no matter what we did," Saddleback Coach Mel Silva said. "I've had some tough losses, but nothing so drastic like today."

Saddleback (20-2) had not lost a game since December, when it fell to Laguna Hills in a tournament.

"We knew they had a hard time on penalty kicks, so we wanted to get it down to that," Millikan Coach Rod Petkovic said. "It's too bad they have to go out this way."

They went out with their two best players, Serna and Jose Retiz, missing penalty kicks during the shootout. Serna had his shot to the left blocked and Retiz missed the goal entirely with a left-footed grounder. Millikan (20-4-2) had converted its first four kicks, so Retiz's miss ended the match.

In another Division I game:

El Toro 1, Palos Verdes Peninsula 0--Julian Gaitan's goal 24 minutes into the first half carried El Toro into the quarterfinals Friday against Millikan. The goal was Gaitan's third consecutive winning goal in the playoffs for the Chargers (12-10-2).

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