Galileo clinches playoff spot

It seems hard to believe there was such a clear-cut turning point in the Galileo boys’ soccer team’s 5-0 win over Marshall on Tuesday considering the way it ended.

But midway through the first half of a game between the two contenders for the Academic Athletic Association’s final playoff berth, the Phoenix’s Omar Diaz was at the penalty spot with a chance to give his team a 1-0 lead. When his low, hard shot was saved by Lions goalie Emiliano Bautista, it sparked a five-minute stretch in which Galileo would score twice and seize complete control of the all-or-nothing match at Polo Field No. 2.

With the win, the Lions (9-3-3) clinched second place in the AAA’s Y Division and will face X Division winner Mission next Wednesday at Boxer Stadium in the San Francisco Section semifinals.

“There’s no question we got a huge lift from that [penalty shot save],” Galileo coach Brian O’Connor said. “Emiliano’s been a rock back there all year — he’s one of the best in the league. And pretty soon after that stop we started to bury some of our opportunities, and that was the difference.”

The Lions’ first goal came in the 22nd minute, when midfielder Diego Juarez danced down the left side, beat two defenders at the end line and crossed a perfect pass that Osbeli Castanon hammered home from 6 yards out. Three minutes later, Galileo scored again as Alvaro Calle’s corner kick was inadvertently deflected by a Phoenix defender and into the net.

But despite the seemingly comfortable lead, recent history prevented the Lions from letting up. The first time the two teams played this season, Marshall (8-5-2) scored with less than a minute left to come back from two goals down and earn a 2-2 tie. Tuesday, Calle continued to control the midfield while Jorge Juarez, Diego Juarez and Castanon all scored in the first 22 minutes of the second half to ensure that scenario would not be repeated.

“We remembered what happened last time against those guys, so we had to keep up the intensity all game,” Calle said. “This was the one we knew we had to win and we’re proud to be back in the playoffs.”

Galileo will finish its regular season Thursday against Y Division-leading Lowell back at Polo Field No. 2, but it clinched a postseason berth regardless of the result of that match with Tuesday’s win. Against Mission, the Lions lost 4-1 this year and 2-0 in the 2006 playoffs, but the fact the two teams love to attack should make for an exciting match.

“We have similar styles,” O’Connor said. “And we’re glad we’ll have the chance to play them again.”

Galileo 5, Marshall 0

melliser@examiner.com

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