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Men's soccer: Cougars finally cool off

Remarkable run ends with loss to Mt. SAC in state championship

Posted: December 5, 2010 9:33 p.m.
Updated: December 6, 2010 4:55 a.m.

COC midfielder Carlos Hernandez (23) vies for the ball against Mt. San Antonio College’s Javier Castro (14) during the CCCAA State Championship game on Sunday at Cougar Stadium.

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The College of the Canyons men’s soccer team carried a mountain of momentum into its state-title showdown with defending California champion Mt. San Antonio College.

But that momentum, in the form of an 11-game winning streak coupled with home-field advantage, wasn’t enough to overcome Mt. SAC’s potent offense and methodically efficient defense.

The Mounties grabbed the early lead on a first-half penalty kick, then added three more goals in the second half to defeat COC 4-0 in the California Community College Athletic Association State Championship on Sunday morning at Cougar Stadium.

“COC had a great run, and we respected what they did to get here,” said Mt. SAC head coach Juan Sanchez. “We never once

underestimated the power of what they had done to this point.”

The No. 1 seed Mounties (19-1-4) were led by freshman striker Luis Fuentes, who delivered a career performance with a penalty kick in the 24th minute and second-half goals at 53 and 70 minutes to notch the hat trick.

Javier Castro, who assisted on Fuentes’ second tally, knocked home his team’s final goal at the 77-minute mark.

No. 6 seed COC came out with the early energy as Saugus High grad Emmanuel Padron fired a laser shot just three minutes into the contest that sent Mt. SAC goalkeeper Alfredo Ontiveros into a vertical dive to make the save.

But midway through the first half, COC defender Jose Reyes dragged down Michael Chavez in the box, setting the table for Fuentes to drive his penalty kick past Cougar keeper Alex Burkevics.

Sanchez said it was enough to put his team in control of the match.

“That penalty gave us a little bit of momentum, but it was well-deserved. (Chavez) got in the box and he got kicked,” Sanchez said. “That gave us the momentum going forward.”

Trailing 1-0 at the half, COC head coach Phil Marcellin told his players to get back to fundamentals.

“I said to our guys, ‘Been here, done that, let’s just refocus and go back to what we do,’” Marcellin said. “Give credit to Mt. SAC that they’re defending state champs. They knew we’re a second-half team and they came prepared. They weren’t overconfident. They extended their lead and things just didn’t go right for us after that.”

Coming out of the break, Mt. SAC put tremendous pressure on the Cougar defense, launching shot after shot at Burkevics before Fuentes finally beat the freshman with a missile into the lower-left corner of the netting.

The Mounties outshot COC 24-7, with Burkevics scrambling to make seven saves.

“Most of the time our defense does a pretty good job of containing other teams and not letting them get shots off, but (Sunday) wasn’t one of those days,” Burkevics said. “They’re a good team, and we couldn’t give them that many chances. We did, and we paid for it.”

Things broke down from there for the Cougars as Jesus Salazar, Victor Rodriguez and co-captain Reyes later received red cards and were ejected.

The four goals allowed by COC equaled the total number it gave up during the entire 11-game run leading up to the state title game.

COC outscored its opponents 31-4 during that streak, which began with a road victory over archrival Moorpark College on Oct. 22 and included Friday’s 3-0 whitewashing of Northern California No. 1 seed Fresno City College in the state semifinal round.

It was a run that brought the Cougars to the doorstep of history.

“It’s a victory because it teaches us what we need to do so we can get to where we want to be,” Marcellin said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. We were 6-5 and then we made a run that’s epic. Sometimes you’ve got to get kicked to the curb to learn the lessons you need. We ended up on the wrong end of a lopsided score, which really doesn’t reflect the quality of this team.”

Marcellin was the women’s soccer coach at Bakersfield College when COC recruited him to launch its women’s program in 1998. The formation of a men’s program followed in 2003.

The men’s team struggled in the early years, playing sub-.500 soccer in five of its first six seasons before posting a record of 14-7-2 in 2009 and advancing all the way to the final round of the Southern California regional playoffs.

The coach began the 2010 campaign with a nucleus of eight sophomores and built around it.

“This is a historic group, and I hope that they embrace that,” Marcellin said. “The sophomores are leaving on what they think is a sour note, and I feel for them, but they’ve done incredible things. That group of recruits took us to a regional final and a state final in back-to-back years, most wins by a group of guys in the history of this program. I know that time will let them reflect on that.

“When we do win a state title, and I pray that we get another chance to do that, it’s theirs because they started the momentum.”

Note: In the women’s state championship match that followed the men’s game, San Bernardino Valley College defeated Santa Rosa Junior College 1-0.

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