For San Luis Obispo High boys soccer coach Johnny Costa, a little adversity could go a long way.
Sitting at 17-1-1 and ranked in the top four in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 rankings nearly two weeks ago, the Tigers went on to tie Arroyo Grande and lose to Righetti, putting their PAC 7 title hopes in jeopardy.
San Luis Obispo then clinched that title with a convincing 4-0 win over Pioneer Valley on Friday night, the Tigers’ fifth league championship and their first since 2008. That apparently wasn’t enough to earn the Tigers, ranked No. 5, a seed in the Division 5 playoffs. But San Luis Obispo was rewarded with a first-round game at home.
The Tigers (18-2-2) will open Thursday at 3 p.m. against the winner of a wild-card game between Elsinore and Arroyo Valley.
“To see how highly we were ranked in CIF and to win league was just unbelievable,” Costa said. “We almost lost it. I’m almost grateful that we ran into adversity. We had a taste of what defeat was, and we didn’t like it.”
Costa hopes that will push the Tigers in the playoffs. With a high-scoring offense led by seniors Paul Sullivan and Matthew Connely, Costa says the team wants a long playoff run, not just a one-game appearance.
“For us, we just need to go to work,” he said. “That Pioneer Valley game, the way we played in that game is how we got there in the first place. We’re just taking it day-to-day, game-to-game.”
Several other area teams learned their playoff opponents Monday.
Nipomo will host the Foothill League’s third-place finisher Saugus in a Division 3 playoff game Thursday. The Titans (12-9-3) were the Los Padres League co-champs and are ranked No. 9 in Division 3.
Also on Thursday, Paso Robles (13-4-7) travels to Maranatha, which was the Olympic League champion, in a Division 5 first-round game. And Coast Union (12-2-2), led by 30-goal scorer Victor Casas, hosts Coast League runner-up Vistamar in a Division 7 playoff game.
Arroyo Grande (12-10-4) will play today at 3 p.m. in a Division 5 wild-card game against Mission Valley League third-place finisher Arroyo. The winner of that game advances to play Tri-Valley champion Carpinteria in the first round.
What a difference a year makes.
Last season, San Luis Obispo went 11-10-3, finished in fourth place in the PAC 7, and lost at home 1-0 to Mayfair in a CIF-Southern Section Division 3 wild-card game. This year, they’ll skip the wild-card round.
The Tigers improved to 15-6-3, finished second in the league behind Righetti (ranked No. 7 in Division 3), and will host a Division 3 first-round playoff game Friday at 3 p.m. San Luis Obispo will face Yorba Linda, which was the runner-up in the Empire League.
Also playing Friday is Arroyo Grande (16-9), which travels to Hacienda League champion Diamond Bar.
Three teams open the playoffs in the wild-card round Wednesday at 3 p.m. Nipomo (11-7-2), coming off a third-place finish in the LPL, hosts Frontier League third-place finisher Fillmore.
If they win, the Titans would face Pacific View champion Rio Mesa.
Atascadero (14-9) travels to Bishop Montgomery in a Division 3 playoff game, and Templeton (6-7-2) is at Pacifica of Oxnard in a Division 5 game.
With a win, the Greyhounds would face the Division 3 third seed Claremont, which won the Sierra League, and Templeton would face Division 5 third seed Ontario Christian, which won the Ambassador League.