LONG BEACH – There was no denying San Clemente boys soccer in the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs.
The No. 4 seed Tritons capped a near-perfect run through the Southern Section playoffs with their third shutout of the postseason, 2-0, over Long Beach Poly to win the program’s fourth CIF-SS title in the Division 2 Final at Veterans’ Stadium in Long Beach on Saturday, Feb. 25.
“They’re primed for the playoffs,” San Clemente coach Chris Murray said. ‘They’ve had experience, or their older siblings have had experience, so as soon as it comes playoff time, they lock in, get over themselves and focus on the team. They’ve just built momentum all the way through. It’s been a good ride.”
San Clemente (13-3-8) allowed just one goal in the Division 2 playoffs with 12 goals scored in five postseason games. The Tritons have gone unbeaten (9-0-3) in their last 12 games.
Finn Linas opened the scoring in the first half for the Tritons, and Beckham Beauchemin iced the game late in the second half. Ryan Savoie made nine saves in his 11th shutout of the season.
Linas represents the San Clemente soccer legacy that Murray alluded to, as Finn’s older brother Liam Linas was on the last Triton CIF-SS championship team in 2019. Saturday’s win was the Tritons fourth CIF-SS championship in its fifth CIF-SS Final, all since 2011.
“Ever since I was little, the goal was to come out here and win a championship, score in a CIF Final,” Finn Linas said, sporting the traditional San Clemente playoff buzz cut. “It was a lot of dreams made today.”
San Clemente will get a chance to equal that 2019 team’s feat in the CIF Southern California Regional playoffs next week. Regional brackets will be released on Sunday, Feb. 26.
In the CIF-SS playoffs, San Clemente beat Norte Vista, 2-1, in the first round, shutout Artesia, 4-0, in the second round, beat Santiago of Corona in penalty kicks after a scoreless draw, 0-0 (6-5), and rolled over Agoura in the semifinals, 4-1.
On Saturday, the Tritons were all over Long Beach Poly (10-5-8) from the opening kickoff.
San Clemente nearly blew away the Jackrabbits in the first 30 minutes, but a potential penalty kick and Long Beach Poly red card for a handball were rescinded on an offside call in the 19th minute. The Tritons had another goal called offside in the 27th minute before Linas found the back of the net in the 30th minute.
Kian Jadbabaei, whose older brother Koosha was also on the 2019 CIF-SS champions, tossed a long ball from the right side into the Poly box, which eventually landed for Linas and the lead, 1-0.
“It was a long throw,” Linas said. “We’ve had a lot of these all season. Jake (Poole) just got up, got over their guys, got a good flick and it fell nice to me. Just put over the goalie. It was a pretty easy finish.”
Long Beach Poly thought it had the equalizer two minutes later on a perfectly placed shot off the run, but the Jackrabbits were called offside and went into halftime trailing.
San Clemente opened the second half with the same momentum it had in the first half, but the Tritons couldn’t capitalize. As the game wore on, Long Beach Poly turned the tide, and San Clemente put up its wall.
The Tritons negated several Poly corner kicks and free kicks, and the few clear chances the Jackrabbits had, they couldn’t direct on net until the final minutes.
In the 69th minute, Ryan Savoie came up with a strong shot stop, and in the 75th minute, Savoie came out of his net to the right to challenge a Poly shooter. Savoie got a hand on a shot, but it still rolled in front of the center of the net. Poly got a clean shot, but Poole was there to knock away the chance on the goal line.
“There’s a trust in the defense that we can hold anyone out,” Murray said. “The goalie is very good, and the central defenders, you can tell the leadership from the back.”
Two minutes later, San Clemente nailed down the game with a roller from Beauchemin that shot through the back of the net for the two-goal advantage, 2-0.
San Clemente held tight to capture its first championship under head coach Chris Murray – its first without legendary coach Mike Pronier at the helm.
“We came out here, just not going to lose, and did not lose,” Linas said.