M. Soccer: Victory sends Falcons to state Final Four

The Falcons men's soccer team celebrates after winning to advance to the CCCAA Final Four
The Falcons men's soccer team celebrates after winning to advance to the CCCAA Final Four

After seeing their 2017 season come to an end in the CCCAA State Semifinals due to penalty kicks, the Cerritos College men's soccer team will be making a return trip after they defeated Santa Monica College, 3-0 on Saturday. The Falcons (20-1-2), the #1-seeded team from Southern California, will now move on to Ventura College, where they will play the #2-seed from Northern California on Friday.

"This feeling will never get old," said head coach Benny Artiaga, who is taking his fifth team to the State Tournament and is in search of his fourth championship. Our boys have worked hard all year and this may have been our best game all season. It's a beautiful feeling to see everything we've been working on executed so well. They're doing everything we ask them to and it's getting us back to the Final Four."

It was a scoreless game until the Falcons showed just how explosive their offense can be, as they struck twice in less than two minutes. In the 53rd minute, freshman Kevin Diaz (Connections Academy HS) settled a loose ball and lofted a pass over the Corsairs (17-3-4) defense to freshman Bryan Ortega (Cesar Chavez HS). Sensing that goalkeeper Aydin Kose had overplayed his position, Ortega was able to chip the ball into an exposed portion of the net to get Cerritos on the board. Ortega, who Artiaga called 'the best player on the pitch today', created the team's second goal when he was tackled in the box by Cyrille Njomo.

Sophomore Erick Gallinar (Connections Academy/UC Irvine) stepped up and converted the penalty kick, giving the Falcons a 2-0 lead in the blink of an eye.

The game remained physical, as the two teams combined for 32 fouls and four yellow cards. As Santa Monica started to get their footing and found a few seams in the Cerritos defense, sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Aldama (North Torrance HS) was there to post six saves to record his third straight postseason shutout. It was also his 12th clean sheet of the season.

Not letting up on offense, the Falcons added an insurance goal in the 83rd minute when Gallinar cleared a pass over the Santa Monica defenders to Diaz, as he capped off the play with his team-leading 20th goal of the season.

"We knew they were going to be physical, so we were prepared for that," added Artiaga. "We never faltered in anything they tried to do to us and we responded in a way that exemplifies what we've been working toward all season. Top to bottom, I think we executed systematically and the beauty of it all is that it's working."

Photos by Daryl Peterson