SAN JOSE—At the start of the season, Pajaro Valley High senior Ignacio Aguado called out a pair of schools and challenged them if they ever got the chance to meet in the Central Coast Section boys soccer playoffs.
His wish came true once he found out the No. 7 seed Grizzlies were going to face No. 5 Bellarmine–a perennial powerhouse in the section–in the Division I finals on Feb. 25.
Aguado was happy to get the matchup he wanted but the result wasn’t quite what he expected. The Belles dominated in all phases in the game en route to a 4-1 win over Pajaro Valley, which made its first appearance in the D-I finals in the program’s history.
“I was just trying to go in the tight spaces, create something but it was hard,” he said. “But it’s going to motivate me to work harder now. I know the level of competition that I have to be at.”
The Grizzlies (17-2-4), the Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division champions, reached the final behind a pair of upsets. They knocked off No. 2 Prospect with a 2-1 win in the quarterfinals and edged No. 3 Sequoia, 2-1, in the semifinals.
“I’m upset about the game but in the second half we really played our hearts out and we showed how PV plays,” said PV junior Isaac Rojas.
The lights may have been too bright for Rojas and his teammates who were playing on the big stage for the first time in their young careers. They were able to lock into the game after giving up the first two goals and they slowly began attacking more in Bellarmine’s zone.
“It was a little wake up call to start passing the ball to create something but they just kept coming at us,” Aguado said. “We tried our best.”
Pajaro Valley coach Cesar Rojas said he had flashbacks of the same mistakes they made during the Central Valley Powerade Showcase in Fresno in December.
“We gave a lot of goals away, not connecting passes or not setting up our goalie properly,” he said. “It caught us again today, so it’s a learning experience.”
Rojas said they were the dark horse going into the D-I bracket because everybody outside of the program didn’t have faith in them.
“I’m proud of my boys,” he said. “I feel bad though for my seniors…I wasn’t able to give them a championship, but I’m going to keep working hard to bring a championship to PV High. That’s my promise.”
Sophomore midfielder Kristof Garcia put the Grizzlies on the scoreboard with a penalty kick in the 38th minute but the damage had already been done by the Belles, who had a 4-1 lead going into halftime.
Aguado praised Bellarmine for the way they prepared and how precise they were when it came to passing the ball.
“We worked on some shifting yesterday but a lot of our players were nervous, CCS final,” he said. “We scored a goal, I’m happy at the end of the day. Good final.”
Rojas said they did go into the second half with a different mentality and the energy level was higher than it was in the beginning. He added that they became more confident in one-on-one situations, which helped them play a lot looser.
“Players got a bit scared just cause of the name and legacy they have,” Rojas said. “But PV is making a legacy right now, we’re making history right now. I’m proud of that because it’s the first time ever PV makes a Division I final.”
Rojas will also look back on how committed each player was and how they treated each other as brothers.
“We’re more than just teammates,” he said.
Rojas believes that’s what makes them different from other schools because they built a family-type environment and it shows on the pitch.
Cesar Rojas implemented some new things prior to the season and team bonding was at the top of his list. He also mentioned the importance of players staying on top of their grades and showing up to class on time.
“That’s my reward,” he said. “I want them to succeed in life. I want them to make it to the big leagues.”
As for Aguado, what he’ll remember most is waking up at the crack of dawn for the 6am practices and training sessions with his teammates in the afternoon, which is what started the foundation for a bright future ahead.
“I’m happy PV has a future,” he said. “I’m ready for it, I’m going to come back and support them.”