With several graduated members of last season's historic, Central Coast Section-winning San Mateo boys' soccer team sitting and watching the game from the Aragon stands, Alejandro Mendoza gave his former teammates a glimpse into the future.
Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
San Mateo's Alejandro Mendoza avoids Aragon goalkeeper David Kiel to score the first of his three goals in the Bearcats' 4-1 non-league win.
And the future looks very bright.
Mendoza, only a sophomore, showed an impeccable nose for goal, scoring three times in leading the Bearcats to a 4-1 win over Aragon High School to close out the San Mateo non-league schedule. Mendoza came up to the varsity team last season during the Bearcats' run at a CCS co-championship and has already assumed the role of the Bearcats' most dangerous offensive player.
"I felt pretty good and tired,” Mendoza said. "And I'm always nervous because I'm the youngest one.”
"He's playing really well,” said San Mateo head coach Chuck Callaghan, adding that the youngster picked up the proverbial game ball going on two straight games now.
The acknowledgment is well-deserved given the impact the sophomore has had on a veteran Bearcats team that has hopes of defending its Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division title.
"It's a new year,” Callaghan said. "Teams change every year. Some teams get stronger. I don't think they feel any pressure. Not at this point. They've been playing well so far.”
San Mateo has been playing well because of its defense and Friday afternoon against Aragon was no exception. It took a superb cross by the Dons' Aldo Severson and exquisite finish by Ranier Plantinos on a one-time volley for San Mateo to surrender only its second goal of the year.
The Plantinos goal came five minutes after Mendoza opened the scoring off a defensive mistake by the Dons. No. 19 had to elude a charging Aragon goalkeeper, poke the ball to his left and then dive feet first to get it into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Severson, who sat out the majority of the preseason recuperating from a shoulder injury he suffered while playing football for the Dons, was very effective in limited minutes. As far as crosses into the box are concerned, they don't come any better than his in the 23rd minute.
But two minutes after Platinos' strike, Mendoza used his head to flip a Ryan Onizuka pass over a charging goalkeeper and converging defender, then shielded another Don off the ball as he guided it past the goal line for a 2-1 advantage the Bearcats took into recess.
"We felt pretty good,” Mendoza said of the offense. ‘Better than usual.”
Defensively, the Bearcats didn't allow much more after the Platinos volley.
"I think we could do better on our corner kicks,” Callaghan. "We weren't setting up right and made them harder than they need to be. But generally, in the run of play, our defense played great. And we have great players on defense. I expect our defense to be strong again.”
Mendoza's hat trick was complete 25 minutes into the second half when he fought off three Aragon defenders just long enough inside the penalty to cock back his left leg and send a laser into the Aragon net.
Nine minutes later, Rony Guzman capped off the San Mateo scoring when he beat the Aragon goalkeeper from a seated position, getting just enough on the ball to find its home in the net.