For the first time in program history, Aliso Niguel hosted a playoff game on Tuesday night. Their opponents, the Great Oak Wolfpack were familiar foes. The Wolfpack knocked the Wolverines out of the first round of the playoffs last season and doubled up the Wolverines 12-6 in March of this year. Great Oak had hit a rough patch due to injuries during the regular season. Shortly after that game, Great Oak hit a mid-season slump in which they lost five straight before finishing the season strong. The Wolfpack was looking to ride their recent momentum and historical dominance over Aliso Niguel into the second round. The Wolverines were looking to be one of the last eight team standings for the first time.
The first quarter was a defensive battle as both teams worked to establish dominance. The first score came with 3:15 in the 1st quarter by Wolverine Adrenaline All American Jonah Rinaldi (4 g). The stingy defense would continue until the last minute of the quarter. With 35 seconds left, junior midfielder Garrett Huong scored for Aliso, to be followed up by Rinaldi scoring with 8 seconds left, thanks to the faceoff dominance of senior Michael Marino (81% face off wins).
The second quarter was more of the same until freshman sensation midfielder Tyler Jones took the ball straight off a clear and outran everyone to score for the Wolverines, giving them a 4-0 lead.
Great Oak was not ready to fold up their tent, as senior attack Zach Fruehe (2g) got the Wolfpack on the board. Aliso added another goal before half with excellent ball movement by Hoang and junior attack Jake Lombardo.
The second half began with Great Oak coming out determined to get back in the game with a score from Fruehe again. As was the case for much of the night, Aliso had an answer. Rinaldi notched his third goal of the night when the Wolfpack defender overplayed him, allowing Rinaldi a path to the goal.
Both goalies were putting on a save exhibition. Senior Austin Stahl (6 saves) made some miraculous first half saves on the doorstep that clearly changed the energy of the game. Not to be outdone, Great Oak goalie Kendall Dizon (14 saves) made countless saves that allowed the Wolfpack to stay in the game. The final quarter would begin with the score 7-3. Aliso added one more goal while Great Oak would score two more goals in the final period to reach the final score of 8-5 for Aliso Niguel’s first playoff win in their brief history.
The Wolverines clearly came into the game aware of the talents of senior attack Alexander Cunningham (1g) as he was the catalyst of the Wolfpack’s previous victory over the Wolverines. The zone defense coach Pat Jenkins implemented clearly cut down on the Great Oak movement offense.
Aliso moves onto the 2nd round where they will face top seeded Foothill on Thursday night at 7:30pm.