IRVINE – University boys soccer coach Martin Wallwork summed up Tuesday’s 3-1 Pacific Coast League victory against Corona del Mar with one word.
“Relief,” he said.
It was the first time in his five years with the Trojans that he topped his rival. And it was also a triumph that served as a good barometer for status of his program and his chances of winning the PCL championship as the battle for first place traditionally involves these two teams.
“It was an emotional game for both sets of players,” Wallwork said. “But I told my players to take the emotion out of it and play their game and treat it like any other game. And they did a really good job of doing that. When we play top teams we want to prove something. ”
Pedro Palmaka scored two goals and Sebastien Hertel added another in the breakthrough triumph for their coach at University High.
But it was Corona del Mar that struck first in what was the league opener for both teams. The Sea Kings kept the Trojans pinned in the defensive end for early on, and took a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute when Max Rivas flicked in a long throw from Grant Glessing.
Four minutes later, though, the Trojans tied the score when Pedro Palmaka collected a rebound in the box and lined a shot inside the right post. Darious Abdollahi struck first for the Trojans, but Campbell Sheppard made a diving save. Unfortunately for the Sea Kings, Sheppard knocked the ball to Palmaka.
Sheppard, though, turned in another impressive performance for the Sea Kings, finishing with six saves, three coming off point-blank shost in the box.
“He is awesome. He has been unreal,” Corona del Mar coach George Larsen said. “We do give up a lot of chances, but he has kept so many out. It’s crazy. He has been fantastic for us.”
Hertel extended the Trojans’ lead to 2-1 in the 27th minute and Palmaka set the final margin in the 59th, converting a penalty kick after the Sea Kings were called for a handball in the box.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Corona del Mar, but the Sea Kings play on grass, and the stormy weather on Tuesday forced the game to be moved to Uni’s turf field, so the Sea Kings will have to play two road games against the Trojans as the Jan. 30 match will remain at University.
“They are very tough play against. They put a lot of balls in the box and put a lot of pressure on you and score goals. But we knew that if we weathered those first few minutes, our football would start to show…