By Zach Cavanagh

The San Clemente High School boys soccer team’s season essentially came down to a coin flip and the last thing the Tritons wanted to see on Tuesday – a penalty-kick shootout.

The Tritons and Cathedral High School of Los Angeles battled even through regulation. They were even through two overtime periods. They were even through five, six and seven rounds of the penalty kick shootout.

In the eighth round of the tiebreaker, the Phantoms broke the deadlock with a goal and the Tritons missed as Cathedral won, 1-1 (7-6), in a CIF-SS Division 1 semifinal at San Clemente High and advanced to the championship game.

San Clemente lost in the CIF-SS playoffs on penalty kicks for the second consecutive season and has lost its last five playoff penalty-kick shootouts dating back to 2012. The Tritons were 1-3 in shootouts this season.

San Clemente goalkeeper Ryan Kowarsch jumps up to snag a ball in a CIF-SS Division 1 semifinal on Feb. 27. Photo: Zach Cavanagh
San Clemente goalkeeper Ryan Kowarsch jumps up to snag a ball in a CIF-SS Division 1 semifinal on Feb. 27. Photo: Zach Cavanagh

“Just a shame,” San Clemente coach Mike Pronier said. “Once we got to the midpoint of league, we got better as league ended. Each playoff game we got better.”

The Tritons (17-5-6) were in excellent form through the last half of the season with a 10-1-3 record through January and February leading into Tuesday’s game. San Clemente went 5-1-2 in league to capture its first league title since 2016 and its sixth league title in eight seasons.

Despite the loss, San Clemente’s season isn’t finished as the Tritons qualified for the CIF SoCal Regional Championships. Match-ups will be announced on Sunday, March 4.

Cathedral opened the game with a strong push that had the Tritons on their heels in the first 10 minutes of the game.

In the 26th minute, leading scorer Blake Bowen gave the Tritons the advantage.

Bowen, a junior, chased down a ball on the left side of the box and stripped it cleanly from a slow-playing Cathedral defender. Bowen got separation and sent the ball by the keeper for the lead, 1-0.

The second half opened with Cathedral again pushing the pace into San Clemente territory.

In the 59th minute, San Clemente sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Kowarsch came up with a huge diving save to his left to keep the Tritons ahead. Kowarsch stepped in between the pipes for the Tritons in the last two games as senior keeper Jake Carter went down with an ankle injury.

San Clemente's Blake Bowen climbs a fence to celebrate his goal in a CIF-SS Division 1 semifinal on Feb. 27. Photo: Zach Cavanagh
San Clemente’s Blake Bowen climbs a fence to celebrate his goal in a CIF-SS Division 1 semifinal on Feb. 27. Photo: Zach Cavanagh

The Phantoms leveled the game in the 68th minute.

A high ball fell to the left side of the box where San Clemente allowed a Cathedral forward to possess the ball. Cathedral turned the ball back to the middle and finished their chance to even the score, 1-1.

The tension ramped up, and the teams headed into overtime.

Cathedral hit a ball of the inside of the left post in the 95th minute, and Bowen sent a clean header over the bar in the 97th minute.

Neither team scored as they headed to the shootout.

San Clemente got off to a strong start with a save by Kowarsch, but Cathedral also made a first-round save to stay tied.

Bowen, KC Smith, Tristan Weber, Quinn Richards, Cesar Delgado and Liam Linas all scored for the Tritons as they matched the Phantoms through seven rounds.

Cathedral made its shot, but Cameron Gadbury came off the bench cold and couldn’t convert.

For in-game updates, news and more for all San Clemente High School sports programs, follow us on Twitter @SouthOCSports.

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