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Lakewood Soccer

CIF Boys’ Soccer: Lakewood Loses PKs In CIF Southern Section Division 4 Championship

The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.

Soccer is referred to as the beautiful game, but the world’s most popular sport can also be very cruel and Lakewood learned that lesson in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The Lancers were the better side while battling with Etiwanda during a scoreless regulation and overtime before the Eagles won the penalty kick shootout 6-5.

“It’s unfortunate, but I’m just really proud of my boys,” said Lakewood coach Alex Diaz. “It was just about who would score the goal to win. I knew it was going to come down to one goal, and it just came down to PKs. And PKs are PKs. This is the way soccer is.”

Lakewood outshot Etiwanda 13-9 in the game while earning more than a handful of great opportunities to score the opening goal. Etiwanda goalkeeper Max Guerrero made seven saves for the clean sheet.

“It was a good game, we played well, it just is what it is,” said Lakewood senior Jonathan Romero. “We had a lot of chances that we could’ve made but we couldn’t finish them.”

During this playoff run Lakewood won its first postseason game since 2016 and reached the latter rounds for the first time in almost four decades. This was the Lancers first championship appearance since winning it all in 1985.

“Our goal was to make it to the finals and that’s what we did by being hard working players,” said Romero. “We still have State so we have to go take that.”

The CIF SoCal Regional tournament starts this week and both of these teams will be involved.

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After a postseason full of pressuring teams and punching on miscues, Lakewood was more patient on the big field at Vets Stadium while still producing good chances.

“I put them in challenges all year. Playing the Millikan’s and the Poly’s you have to adjust every game,” said Diaz of his team’s ability to maintain its identity while changing its game plan. “You have to play different ways against different teams. I knew they were going to be able to do it.”

Just after the 15 minute mark it was Lakewood’s Christian Valcic and Diego Perez earning a pair of quick shots that were blocked off from finding the back of the net. The Lancers outshot the Eagles 6-3 in the first half.

Lakewood’s defense was so strong all game and goalkeeper Diego Ortiz only needed to make four saves for the clean sheet.

“(Etiwanda was) going to be direct with long throw-ins and set pieces,” said Diaz. “I think we did a good job of challenging those. I don’t think they combined more than three passes, to be honest.”

The second half was not nearly as entertaining as there were more yellow cards handed out than shots in the second half when the hour mark hit. Perez had a couple headers miss the target, and the defender finished the game with a team-high four shots.

Lakewood star Michael Gutierrez got loose for a pair of gilt-edged opportunities to score a sixth goal in five playoff games. The first came at the end of the first half when Guerrero came charging off his line to block a shot from the top of the box. Guerrero did the same thing to take the ball off Gutierrez’ foot when he had another chance in the first overtime period.

Perez made the biggest save of the game in the first overtime period when he came across the face of goal to block a back-post shot.

In the penalty kick shootout, the first five Lakewood takers Perez, Angelo Funes, Valcic, Romero and Brian Pioquinto all converted their shots while Etiwanda’s first five did the same.

Gutierrez was the six PK taker for Lakewood and his shot bounced down and out off the crossbar. Thevan Vithanage stepped up and buried the next and championship winning PK.

“He has won us games,” said Diaz of Gutierrez, who was distraught after the miss. “He stepped up and I know the feeling of missing a PK. I missed one in 2011 as a sophomore, I know what that feeling is. But he will be back.”

The CIF SoCal Regional brackets will be released early this week, and it will be the first ever CIF State appearance for Lakewood boys’ soccer.

VIDEO: Lakewood vs. Etiwanda, CIF Southern Section Boys’ Soccer Division 4 Championship
PHOTOS: Lakewood vs. Etiwanda, CIF Southern Section Boys’ Soccer Division 4 Championship
JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.