Vista claims second straight soccer title

By: Matt Long/Telegraph Sports Editor
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With an 18-0-1 record and a second straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title, Vista del Lago’s varsity boys’ soccer team has laid claim to being one of the top soccer teams ever in the Sacramento area. The Eagles finished their season Saturday with a 2-0 win over East Union to win the section title. MaxPreps ranks the Eagles second in the section behind Jesuit, third in the state and 19th nationally. The only game the Eagles didn’t win this season came against nationally-ranked Granite Bay, which ended in a 4-4 tie. In 19 games this season, the Eagles scored 95 goals and allowed only 11, averaging five goals per game while allowing opponents a little more than half-a-goal per game. In the championship game against the Lancers, Vista found themselves in a scoreless game at halftime, as the physical East Union squad packed in the defensive zone. The longer the Lancers stayed in the game, the more pressure the Eagles felt and Vista seemed a bit frustrated at halftime. After all, the team had put several shots on East Union keeper Dominic Riella, but none had much pace and required little effort to save. Vista tried to play several through balls in the first half and it wasn’t working. At other times the Eagles made too many individual touches and never got shots off. “It was a high pressure game and there was a lot of compaction on top of the 18,” Vista coach Joe Esfandiary said after the game. “Besides that it’s a smaller and narrower field than the guys are used to playing on. I told them to avoid the long passes up the field and play side to side, spread the defense out and cross the ball and the boys did just that in the second half and it paid off.” The longer the Eagles went without scoring, the more pressure was put on the Vista defense including keeper Chris Bringgold and defenders Brandon Wallace, Michael LePage, Danny Jacobs and Ryan Erlichman. “I felt more pressure at halftime because we hadn’t scored yet,” Bringgold admitted. “But our defense has been solid all year and they were solid again today.” Fairley said the team remained confident at the half despite having yet found the back of the net. “There was no panic,” Fairley said. “We knew we would go out and get one. Coach just told us to keep doing what we’re doing.” Midfielder Brendan Fitzgerald added, “It was a tough game and more physical than we’re used to so it took us awhile to score. I was pretty confident Timmy (Fairley) would get one, though.” East Union had the best chance to score 14 minutes into the second half, but Bringgold made the save of the game when he dove to knock a Lancer header away from the goal. “They put in a cross and headed it and all I could think of was back post,” Bringgold said. “I said a prayer and dove and knocked the ball out with my fingertips.” Nine minutes later, Fairley and the Eagles finally scored and were now able to exhale. Fairley needed a little luck to earn the goal, but he said he’ll take it. Fairley took a full leg swing at the ball but it deflected off a defender and had a wicked spin on it and when it hit the ground it bounced away from Riella and into the back of the net. “I stole it from a guy in the box and took a shot and it deflected and took a lucky bounce in,” Fairley said. Vista secured the win 14 minutes later when Fairley took a throw from Erlichman and turned and booted it into the back of the net. “I got a great throw from R.J. and I just toe-poked it in,” Fairley said. About six minutes later, the game was over the Eagles had won their second straight section title. “It’s a great feeling to go out on top in your last game,” Fitzgerald said. Esfandiary was proud of his team winning the section title and the season overall. “Our biggest accomplishment this season was taking 11 returning players and 11 guys up from the junior varsity and making them one team,” Esfandiary said. “From there through hard work and being consistent in practice and during games we were able to accomplish quite a lot. The team had a lot of fun along the way.”