Pioneer Valley, Santa Maria win semifinals, will face off for CIF championship this weekend

CIF Soccer Semi Finals PVHS vs Clovis East

Courtesy of Santa Maria Times, Kenny Cress. Photo by Joe Bailey. 


Pioneer Valley, Santa Maria win semifinals, will face off for CIF championship this weekend


It will be a Santa Maria Valley crosstown rivalry for the CIF Central Section Division 2 boys soccer championship.

Caleb Toledo knocked a beautifully-placed left-to-right shot from 30 yards out high into a stiff wind and into the right corner of the net, starting No. 6 Pioneer Valley on its way to a 5-2 win over No. 10 Clovis East in one Division 2 semifinal on a cold, windy Tuesday night at Pioneer Valley.

No. 5 Santa Maria beat No. 8 Bakersfield Stockdale 3-1 at Santa Maria in the other semifinal Tuesday night. Since Santa Maria is the higher seed, Pioneer Valley and Santa Maria will play at Santa Maria's Ralph Baldiviez Stadium at 3 p.m. Saturday for the Division 2 title.

"It's a little extra special since we're playing Santa Maria," said Pioneer Valley forward Sebastian Aquino. "But the bottom line is, we're playing for the Division 2 championship."

Pioneer Valley (14-3-7) and Santa Maria (18-7-4) played themselves into the first round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs. The Division 1 and Division 2 finalists earned automatic regional berths.

Toledo, who had an assist, tallied twice for Pioneer Valley Friday night. So did Bryan Guillen. Javier Villafan scored once.

Pioneer Valley led 4-0 at halftime.

"Definitely, that was the best first half we've played this year," said Toledo.

"We came out with a lot of energy. I don't think they were ready for that. And they're not used to playing in the wind."

The temperature at the start of the game was 49 degrees. The wind chill made it feel like it was 43.

About two and a half minutes after Toledo started the scoring, Guillen knocked a shot from 25 yards out dead center from the goal into the net to make it 2-0, and the Panthers were on their way.

Clovis East actually controlled the ball for large stretches of the game, but Aquino and fullback Brayan Robles led a Panthers defense that held up. Clovis East ballhandlers repeatedly worked the ball deep into Pioneer Valley but eventually ran into a Pioneer Valley defense well-massed in the middle, and the Panthers would steal the ball.

Meanwhile, Panthers off the ball were often able to break free on the outside when Pioneer Valley was on offense, and the Pioneer Valley ballhandlers connected with them on well-placed passes, creating transition opportunities.

Pioneer Valley coach Alan Brafman made a mass substitution with about 15 minutes left, and Clovis East briefly made things interesting. Cole Lomeli and Tyler LaGrasse scored about a minute apart for the Timberwolves.

But when a quick third Clovis East opportunity shortly thereafter went by the wayside when a shot went about a foot over the top post, that was pretty much it. Brafman put his starting forwards back in, and Pioneer Valley controlled the ball well enough to keep the Timberwolves at bay.

"I think I put too many guys in at once," said Brafman. "They were cold."

"But I think our boys deserved it. They're really playing well. They haven't lost in quite awhile," since a 3-1 loss to Santa Maria on Jan. 6, in fact. The Panthers have 10 wins and three draws since.

Pioneer Valley and Santa Maria tied 2-2 at Santa Maria Jan. 27.

The Orcutt Academy and St. Joseph girls basketball teams both lost in semifinal games Tuesday night. No, 4 Tehachapi beat top-seeded Orcutt Academy 65-61 at Lakeview Junior High School in Division 2, and No, 2 Clovis rallied for a 66-63 win over No. 3 St. Joseph at Clovis in Division 1.

"That wasn't us playing, it was God helping us," Toledo said afterward Thursday night. "It's God first here.”