The Santa Monica High School Vikings boys soccer team took care of every major challenge that came its way this season, culminating with the first-ever Southern California Regional Division I Championship.
The Vikings (29-0-1) topped off an undefeated season by capturing a 2-1 victory over Poway High School in sudden-death overtime in the Southern California Regional Championship at Warren High School in Downey Saturday, March 8th.
Junior midfielder Juan Magana gave the Vikings their game-winning goal ten minutes into the overtime period, when he kicked the ball off a Poway defender and into the goal.
With the Division I regional title, the Vikings, who are nationally-ranked, overcame their final test of the season. They kicked off their title run with the Ocean League Championship and then grabbed the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section Division IV crown with a 2-0 victory over Jurupa Valley High School March 1st.
“The players feel absolutely sensational,” Santa Monica High soccer director Frank Gatell said of the team’s first regional title. “They superseded everything we thought we would do.
“These guys stepped up huge and did something beyond our wildest dreams.”
Santa Monica High athletic director Norm Lacy added, “There’s been a groundswell of excitement on campus. We knew pretty early on that we had a special group.”
Lacy said the Vikings made an “outstanding run” in the playoffs and overcame challenging obstacles, including the injury of starting goalkeeper Alex Kovacs, who was replaced by Michael Freedman in the regional championship.
Gatell also credited the Vikings for being able to come out on top whenever they were put to the test.
After the two teams were scoreless in the first half of the regional title game, Santa Monica took a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute when Artur Jozkowicz set up junior Ricky Martinez, who headed the ball into the goal.
Poway then scored two minutes later to even the game, but when the battle went into overtime, the Vikings once again found a way to win.
“They knew how to persevere no matter what,” Gatell said.