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Placer on to semifinal after shutout

Prep Soccer
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Mark Miller has guided the Placer High soccer team into rare territory — the second round of the playoffs. But the coach insists the Hillmen have not peaked yet. Placer used a late strike in the first half and stellar second half to blank Benicia 3-0 on Tuesday in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. It was the first playoff victory of Miller’s six-season career at Placer. “And the good news is we haven’t played our best yet,” Miller said. “In the second half we finally did what I asked them to do, which is attack down the wings. We possessed a little better and we started getting to the 50/50 balls. But we still haven’t reached our potential.” The Panthers gave the Hillmen a battle early on. Placer struck in the 28th minute when junior Gama Gomez served a dangerous cross into the penalty box. Senior Ulises Bautista struck a volley perfectly and it curled into the right corner of the goal to put the Hillmen up 1-0. The Hillmen (18-2-4) dominated the final 40 minutes. Junior Brennan Entz broke free down the right side, turned the corner and played the ball across to a streaking Mauricio Vera, who tapped in Placer’ second goal. Entz also set up the final score, playing a nice touch pass to freshman Shawn Green, who slotted it home. Freshman Nikolai Figueroa and senior Eddie Santamaria made sure Benicia’s chances were limited, with help from Adam Norcott and Peter Kean. Senior Ulises Arellano recorded his 15th shutout of the season in goal. Placer will return to Railhead Park on Thursday to host Antelope. The Titans beat Yuba City 1-0 on Tuesday. Game time is 3:15 p.m.