It was a banner week for the Palisades High boys soccer team as it won twice and advanced to the Division I City Section finals. On Friday, the third-seeded Dolphins withstood a 68th-minute goal by El Camino Real to earn a 2-1 victory and a berth in this Saturday’s title match against Bell at Contreras Learning Center at 5:30 p.m.
In both wins – PaliHi defeated South Gate at home in Wednesday’s quarterfinal, 2-0 – early goals and the stellar play of senior goalkeeper Dylan Coleman provided the winning formula.
The Dolphins wasted no time on the road against El Camino Real, knowing how important a lead would be playing in a tough environment.
“This is not an easy place to play, we were lucky to survive and advance,” head coach Dave Suarez told the Daily News. “With a two-goal lead, against a quality team like El Camino Real, the minutes and seconds on the clock went by slow in the second half of the match.”
Senior defender Griffin Bell found the net just six minutes into the game, and junior midfielder Lucas Wetherby-Jonsson scored in the 12th minute for a 2-0 advantage.
Defensively, Pali was its usual strong self, and Coleman suffered only the one blemish. For the season, he has allowed just seven goals while posting seven shutouts.
Entering the showdown with El Camino Real, head coach Dave Suarez was confident his team could hang with the always competitive Conquistadors.
“I think this is our most talented team, and we can compete with anybody in that semifinal game if we go out and bust it and see what we can do,” Suarez told the Palisadian-Post after the South Gate win. “We’ll play anybody anywhere if we have to.”
Junior striker Tyler Newman provided both of Pali’s goals against South Gate, his first coming just six minutes into the game, and his second from point-blank range with 24 minutes left to play.
“Tyler’s got tremendous speed,” Suarez said. “When you’ve got that much speed, you’re going to create opportunities for yourself. We did a good job of working the ball up to him and he did a good job of taking it from there.”
Newman led the team in goals during the regular season with 14, followed by junior striker Ben Kim with 12. Wetherby-Jonsson was first on the team with 11 assists.
“It feels really good and I just feel lucky to get great passes from my teammates that put me in position to score goals,” Newman said. “But we’re all really proud to make it this far. The seniors have done a great job, especially in the back. We’ve got a really good dynamic going.”
Meanwhile, Coleman, who was a midfielder but was pressed into service at the beginning of the season when senior Danny Bailey was lost to a concussion, was not tested much early, but came up with a couple of big saves in the second half. He made a lunging grab of a shot with 16 minutes remaining, then ran up to intercept a ball with 13:30 to go.
Suarez and his team are now eyeing the school’s first City title in recent history, but the feat of just escaping the quarterfinal round was not lost on the coach.
“It’s a big step for us, because we’ve been stuck in the quarterfinals for three years in a row,” Suarez said.