It wasn’t a win, but it wasn’t a loss, either.
And if ever a tie was a satisfactory achievement in local high school soccer, this was it.
Pleasant Grove on Monday afternoon gutted out a 1-1 draw against top-ranked Jesuit in a Delta League opener in Elk Grove. The Marauders are ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 5 in the nation by topdrawersoccer.com.
“Our kids were a little disappointed because they wanted the win so bad, but we gave them the pep talk, told them to keep the focus, and we reminded them, ‘Look how far we’ve come as a program,’ ” Eagles coach Rob Miranda said. “We’ve never beaten Jesuit, but a tie happens a lot in soccer, and it’s progress for us. We’re closing the gap with the best.”
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Jesuit finished with nine players on the field after two were issued red cards in a physical, emotionally charged match. Sixth-ranked Pleasant Grove is 3-1-1, losing its opener 4-3 to No. 4 Christian Brothers. The Eagles won five matches in 2012 and six last season.
Scoring against Jesuit All-American keeper Luc Barbe was a victory in itself, Miranda said, as the Marauders (8-0-1) had allowed just two goals coming in. Brendan Laun’s free kick curved around the Marauders’ wall. Joe Restani and Michael Hirsch lead the Eagles in scoring this season and Andrew Encinas has been strong in goal.
“Restani and Hirsch cause a lot of problems for defenses,” Miranda said. “They’re starting to really develop some chemistry. And Encinas has kept us in every game. Very impressive.”
Miranda hopes the tie boosts his team’s profile on a campus where success is the norm in most sports. The football, baseball and softball teams have all enjoyed championship seasons, with the boys’ basketball teams winning recent Northern California championships.
“Soccer sometimes gets knocked as not being that manly, or whatever, but you need to watch it or play it to understand, and people should watch our team,” Miranda said. “We’re pretty good. We want to keep this going. Our goal is to keep working and to make the next Jesuit game (Oct. 8) really mean something.”
More challenges – Jesuit plays at Davis (5-1), ranked No. 5 by The Bee and No. 3 in the state, today at 3:30 p.m., a renewal of a longtime rivalry often played out in the postseason. The teams haven’t been in the same league since the 1990s. Jesuit beat Davis 1-0 last season in a nonleague match as Barbe excelled on defense. Barbe said this week Jesuit needs to play its best game of the season to beat Davis, hoping the tie with Pleasant Grove was a “wake-up call.”
Davis’only to loss came against Bee- and state-ranked No. 2 Granite Bay 2-1. It does have a 2-0 win at Marin Academy in San Rafael, a Bay Area power that lost to Jesuit 1-0. But Davis will also be short-handed against Jesuit as it lost standout D.J. Villegas to a red-card ejection in a 5-0 victory over Elk Grove on Monday. Players issued red cards cannot play the following game.
Davis coach Alex Park calls any Davis-Jesuit showdown “ the game.”
Abby Jensen had a strong week for No. 9 Roseville. She had 20 kills and one error in a 2-1 victory over No. 12 Placer, was steady in a 2-0 win over of No. 4 Christian Brothers, and had 19 kills against No. 5 Rocklin.
“She’s been on fire for us,” Roseville coach Ron Grove said. “She’s become a dominant force, and I believe (she) is one of the better players in the area.”