Welcome to the Channel League.
The Santa Ynez Pirates kicked off their inaugural Channel League boys soccer season Thursday night when the Pirates hosted the San Marcos Royals.
But it was the Royals who went home with a 3-1 victory in a match where all the scoring occurred in the first half.
The Pirates dominated the second half but couldn’t stage a comeback as Royals goalkeeper Bryce Tomlinson held off the Pirates’ second-half charge.
“They beat us on set pieces — designed plays. They’re very good at them,” said Santa Ynez head coach Rick Joyner. “We made some adjustments at halftime and in the second half, we took it to them pretty good. We got our shots but just couldn’t get any in the net.”
On a chilly, 50-degree night in the Santa Ynez Valley, the Royals heated up early, consistently pushing the attack into the Pirates’ side of the field.
It was just a matter of time before the Royals’ pressure paid off and it did in the 10th minute when Jared Vom Steeg found Levi Sheffey in front of the goal. Sheffey quickly redirected the pass into the lower right corner of the net past a diving Misa Hernandez for the game’s first score.
The Royals added to their lead 10 minutes later when Caden Vom Steeg passed the ball high into the air in front of the net and Peter Aldapa headed the ball into the goal for a 2-0 lead.
Meanwhile, the Royals foiled the Pirates’ attempts to mount an attack until Santa Ynez broke through for a goal in the 38th minute.
After a corner kick, the Pirates battled for possession in front of the San Marcos goal.
Deklan Pollenz won that battle and got the ball to Erick Guererro who rifled a shot over Tomlinson’s arms from 20-yards out to get the Pirates back in the game, trailing 2-1 with halftime near.
The goal seemed to energize the Pirates who picked up the pace and the pressure for the rest of the game.
But San Marcos wasn’t backing down.
In the final minute of the half, the Royals moved the ball crisply downfield and got off two shots — one that went wide from 30-yards out and a second that Hernandez smothered.
After forcing a Pirates’ turnover on a pass that went out of bounds, the Royals had a corner kick which led to another shot and an insurance goal.
Richard Jauregui sent the inbounds kick to Matt Hislop who pounded the ball into the net for a 3-1 halftime lead.
“I’m glad we finished our chances in the first half,” said San Marcos head coach Paul McLean. “I have to give a lot of credit to Santa Ynez. We were hoping to score an early goal in the second half to give us a little breathing room but Santa Ynez stopped us cold.”
The Royals got off 10 solid shots in the first half. Under siege throughout, Hernandez came up with seven saves.
The Pirates were held to four shots in the first half with Tomlinson blocking the first three.
The Pirates forced the action the entire second half but Tomlinson was up to the task, corralling the five shots sent his way.
“Bryce made some important save for us tonight — he was excellent,” said McLean. “I think our whole team did well. Jared really took charge for us in midfield and Matt made a super play right before halftime when he scored with that flying header. I was really impressed with Santa Ynez’s No. 12 (Guererro). He was excellent, he was everywhere.”
“Erick is a very strong player but we had several who played well tonight,” said Joyner. “Nico Rocha and Ben Blacker were strong in the middle. I had Nico playing center back in the first half and then moved him to his natural position of defensive midfielder in the second. I had Ben at defensive midfield in the first half and then had him swap positions with Nico in the second. I think the switch worked well. And Juan Sanchez played great in goal in the second half. He was crazy out there and helped solidify things in back for us.”
Sanchez took over in the Pirates' net for the second half, stopping all four shots in the second half which included two spectacular saves — the first on a diving shot and the second when he smothered a point blank shot from directly out front.
It appeared that the Pirates scored in the 69th minute but the goal was waved off.
On a free kick, the Pirates’ Guerrero launched a shot from 25 yards out that sailed directly into the net but the goal was waved off because it didn’t touch a second player before crossing the goal mouth,
“I’m glad we came out of here with the win,” said McLean. “Santa Ynez is a strong team.”
“We really took it to them in the second half,” said Joyner. “I’m proud of the way the whole team played.”
Santa Ynez (1-7-1, 0-1 Channel League) is back in action Saturday at 11 a.m. when the Pirates host the Carpinteria Warriors in a non-league match.
San Marcos (6-2-3, 1-0) is off until Tuesday when they continue Channel League play at Lompoc.