By Ryan Kuhn
For the third straight time, Lowell High School got the better of division rival Balboa in boys soccer action.
The two teams met Thursday for the first time since last season’s Academic Athletic Association championship game and visiting Lowell shut out Balboa 4-0 to take over sole possession of first place in the AAA’s X Division.
The win was the 24th in a row for Lowell, which played without head coach Marcos Estebez, who was serving a suspension for receiving a red card earlier in the year.
The Cardinals (6-0 in AAA) came out energized, scoring their first goal in the 13th minute of the first half. Sophomore midfielder Aaron Moye launched a shot past the Balboa goalie to give his team the lead.
In the first half, Lowell held the Buccaneers’ offense to only three shots on goal, and on the season, the Cardinals’ defense has only allowed eight goals, including none in the past three games.
Despite having the lead at halftime, Lowell assistant coach Eugene Vrana challenged his team with a question.
“I said, ‘Why were things not working in the first half?’” Vrana said. “Our passing wasn’t working, and given the wind conditions and how aggressive Balboa’s defense was, we had to move the ball more quickly in and out in order to take advantage of the in-balance of their defense.”
The Buccaneers (5-1) turned up their offensive pressure in the second half and had a clear shot on net in the 66th minute, but when it sailed high the Lowell offense woke up.
In just a matter of seven minutes, the Cardinals scored three times, including two goals by senior forward Jesus Sanchez.
“The air was against us, but I had my teammate set me up over the top and just took the shot and scored,” Sanchez said of his first goal.
In the 76th minute, Sanchez scored another goal on a breakaway that gave the Cardinals a commanding four-goal lead.
His coach knows he has something special happening on the offensive side of the ball.
“Lowell has never been known for its offensive creativity, and that is a quality that Jesus and several of the boys bring to us this season, and it is something that uplifts everybody’s spirit,” Vrana said.“He has the ability not only to have individual success, like some of the runs he made today, but also with his passing and how hard he plays to bring everybody with him.”