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Soccer: Paladins pounce on Providence Christian early, secure Final Four berth
Pinecrest Academy senior Sebastian Santa Maria, right, cuts past Providence Christian Academy sophomore Oscar Cook before firing off a goal Tuesday during the Paladins' 2-1 win in the Class 1A Private Elite Eight. - photo by David Roberts

By Derrick Richemond

Domenic Martelli did not forget about last season's one-goal loss to Providence Christian Academy that eliminated Pinecrest's boys soccer team from the playoffs a year ago.

This time around, it was the Paladins on the winning side, defeating the Storm 2-1 to advance to the the program's first Class 1A Private Final Four.

“We were probably under more pressure than we needed to be with other mistakes, but I still think what we did to survive was everything they did from 25-plus yards out. The boys played really well, ” Martelli said.

A short pass from Pat Flannigan led to Sebastian Santa Maria outrunning his defender, and the second he got enough separation, he fired his shot away for the first goal of the match.

At the 9-minute mark, Colin Brown raced down toward goal and let off a shot. As it left the Brown’s cleat, the ball hit Providence defender Ben Stone's hand and landed inside the net to extend the lead 2-0.

In the late stages of the half, August Larson kicked a powerful shot from 15 yards out into the back of the net to make sure that Providence wouldn't go to halftime scoreless.

Providence had an opportunity to tie the game with 10 seconds remaining on a corner kick, but the kick went far wide.

“We were in control. They were chasing the game, they were looking at the clock, and forcing things. When you look at a game of soccer, and you have a team like them pumping the ball in the box, you have to have guys that can win head balls. Our back four had to win six head balls in the 25 seconds. They did great,” Martelli said.

Pinecrest [13-8]  and will host Athens Academy on Friday with a trip to the Class 1A Private state championship on the line.