By Matthew Snyder
Heading into Wednesday’s Bay Counties League West semifinal game against International High School at the Crocker Amazon Soccer Fields, University’s boys soccer team had not played for eight days.
The extended rest turned into rust and it almost cost the sluggish Red Devils dearly.
University struggled to impose its passing game against the Jaguars, but goals from Freddy Yao and Josiah Corbus offset a late consolation goal from International defender Jose Garduno and sent the Red Devils to Friday night’s league championship game with a 2-1 victory.
“We’re in the final,” said University head coach Deejae Johnson. “I thought there were moments that we looked good and there were moments that we were shaky. We didn’t give up a whole lot and I think we created enough chances to score two, three, four, five goals. But in the end, I’ll take 2-1. We held on. That’s basically it.”
Yao gave University (12-5-2) the lead just a minute before halftime with the Red Devils’ seventh shot (fourth on target) in the first 40 minutes.
The freshman forward took a cut-back pass from junior Wyatt Kim inside the penalty area, and although he scuffed his shot, the ball took a deflection off an International defender and caromed into the goal.
“[Kim] gave a really nice pass and I’m lucky to have such a good player with me to set me up like that,” Yao said. “I felt good about the shot, but I guess I whiffed it. The important thing is that it went in.”
Corbus gave University a bit of breathing room with a second goal in the 60th minute, which he punched in from close range off a corner kick from Diego Lopes.
“Ben Shapiro got on the back post and sent the ball back [into the penalty area],” Corbus said. “Then I think it was a tap in from around the 6-yard box.”
Both teams played the majority of the game without their top attacking players. University senior Michael Lauricella limped off midway through the first half with an apparent leg injury and International freshman Rei Dowart could only play for the first half as well.
Despite conceding the two goals, International (6-8-7) grew stronger as the game progressed.
Garduno’s goal, a right-footed half-volley from just inside the penalty area, almost propelled the Jaguars to another impressive last-gasp comeback exactly one week after they scored two goals in the game’s final minutes to draw 2-2 with Lick-Wilmerding.
“We don’t start our games well for some reason,” said International head coach Carlos Bover. “Then, we start believing we can do it. Sometimes it seems like we have to be down in order to go forward. I don’t know. It’s good to see that the guys played hard and it was a good five minutes at the end. When you lose against a team like University, who have great coaching and great players, it doesn’t feel so bad.”
Marin Academy (San Rafael) 2, Lick-Wilmerding 0
In a rematch of last season’s BCL West title game, top-seeded Marin Academy earned a chance to win their fifth consecutive league title thanks to two second-half goals from defender-turned-midfielder Josh Cohen.
After the Wildcats lost a player to a red card in the 66th minute, the Tigers pressed their numerical advantage and even hit the goalpost, but could not break through.