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Vaqueros beat Corsairs 3-2 to complete unbeaten regular season

Celso Lagunas, a freshman from Santa Barbara High, gave SBCC a 3-1 lead with a goal at 72:40. He leads the team with four game-winning goals. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Celso Lagunas, a freshman from Santa Barbara High, gave SBCC a 3-1 lead with a goal at 72:40. He leads the team with four game-winning goals. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

SBCC downed Santa Monica 3-2 on a chilly Thursday night in La Playa Stadium to complete an undefeated regular season in men's soccer.

The WSC North champion Vaqueros, ranked No. 5 in the state and No. 4 in the nation, won their fifth in a row to finish 15-0-4 overall and 9-0-1 in conference. It's their first unbeaten regular season in 24 years and the first undefeated conference season since 1997.

No. 17 Santa Monica (13-3-5, 5-2-3) was the WSC runner-up.

SBCC struck quickly as Victor Chavez headed the ball over a defender and was pulled down by the keeper in the box. Chavez drilled his second PK into the upper middle for a 1-0 lead at 2:02.

Chavez, a sophomore forward from Garden Street Academy, has scored a goal in three of his last four games. He's seventh in the state in goals (13) and No. 15 in points (31).

The Corsairs tied the game at 25:54 when Kevin Martinez jumped on an errant SBCC pass and scored from a sharp angle on the left.

Jessie Jimenez put the Vaqueros back on top 2-1 in the 65th minute. He booted the ball from the right side, about 24 yards away, and it bounced to the left of the goalie into the back corner.

"We were just the better team," said Jimenez, a sophomore midfielder from Dos Pueblos High. "We fought harder and we had more heart. Our energy and momentum helped us out.

"I was trying to cross that ball and the keeper hesitated. There were a lot of people running in the box and I put it in the right place."

Celso Lagunas, the Vaqueros' super sub, took a short cross from Abiodun Akintioye at 72:40 and stabbed the ball with his foot, beating the keeper to the left side for a 3-1 lead. Lagunas, who entered the game in the 41st minute, has scored in two straight games and has five goals in his last eight appearances.

"That was a definite PK for us and then I thought Victor got pulled down again later in the first half," said coach John Sisterson. "Then we allowed them to tie it up and it was game on."

The Vaqueros outshot the Corsairs 9-4 in the first half and 18-10 for the game.

"I'm so happy to see our team finish the year undefeated," said Sisterson, after the first unbeaten regular season of his 11-year men's career. "They did an absolutely fantastic  job. They worked hard on the field and in the classroom."

Santa Monica made it 3-2 in the 90th minute when Danny Hernandez delivered a 21-yard free kick from the right side and Cyrille Njomo booted it in.

"We're excited to finish the regular season undefeated," Jimenez concluded. "This is a solid win for us, going into the playoffs. I've never been on a team that's fought this hard. Being undefeated is not easy. The time and dedication we've been putting in has really helped us out."

The Vaqueros will open the Southern Cal Regional at home with the first game on Saturday, Nov. 18. The pairings will be announced on Tuesday.