On a day when scoring opportunities were at a premium, it took only one shot to dash the City Section title hopes of the Palisades High boys soccer team.
The third-seeded Dolphins dropped a heartbreaker, 1-0, in overtime on Saturday evening at Contreras High School against fourth-seeded Bell on a goal from point-blank range, ending the deepest playoff run in school history. Bell also edged the Dolphins in last year’s City quarterfinals by the same 1-0 margin.
Senior goalkeeper Dylan Coleman, who had a stellar season after taking over for an injured Danny Bailey, made several key saves in regulation to keep the game scoreless, but never had a chance against the decisive shot, which found the top of the net at the 6:10 mark of the first 10-minute overtime.
Coleman entered the contest having allowed only seven goals for the season while posting seven shutouts.
The game was a defensive struggle, with PaliHi’s back line holding strong as it had all year. Seniors Jack Jordan and Zachary Peters-Vernier were tough and physical in a game that saw several Bell players exit with injuries.
“I think the kids had a great season (14-2-2 overall, 9-1-2 Western League), and they should be proud of themselves,” Pali head coach Dave Suarez said. “This is where they wanted to be. We had a few opportunities and they had a few opportunities. It’s a tough way to go out. Someone’s going to win and someone’s going to lose, and the ball bounced their way.”
PaliHi had one big chance to score midway through the second half when a host of players congregated in front of the net, but a deflected shot hit the crossbar and was corralled by Bell’s goalkeeper.
If the Dolphins are to return to the City finals next year, they will have to do so without Jordan, Peters-Vernier, defenseman Griffin Bell and goalies Coleman and Bailey. Still, a number of top players return, including top scorers in junior strikers Tyler Newman and Ben Kim and junior midfielder Lucas Wetherby-Jonsson.
“This is a learning experience,” Suarez said. “We’ve got a lot of guys coming back, but we’ll have to make a lot of defensive adjustments. Our defensive guys have been around for four years, starting since they were freshmen, so people are going to have to fill their gaps and earn their spots.”