W. Soccer: Falcons advance to state after win in PKs

Natalie de Leon scored the team's lone goal a an overtime win over San Bernardino Valley
Natalie de Leon scored the team's lone goal a an overtime win over San Bernardino Valley

Playing in a steady rainstorm for the entirety of their 3rd Round Southern California Regional Playoff game, the Cerritos College women's soccer team pulled out a win in penalty kicks (4-1) over San Bernardino Valley College. The victory advances the #1-seeded Falcons (21-1-1) to the CCCAA State Tournament for the fifth year in a row and eighth time in the last 10 seasons. Cerritos is the four-time defending state champion, as well as the defending NSCAA National Champions (Division III).

The State Final Four will be played at Ventura College starting on Thursday and the Falcons will play the winner of the Santa Rosa (17-2-5)/Folsom Lake (17-3-3)game, which is scheduled for later tonight.

On the way to their fourth straight state title last year, the Falcons were extended to overtime against San Bernardino Valley in the 2nd Round of the Playoffs. In fact in each of the last four state title runs, Cerritos had to win an overtime game in the playoffs.

"Obviously, this was a huge win for us," said head coach Ruben Gonzalez. "We knew that once we got into overtime, they would be more interested in taking their chances on penalty kicks. "We had a pretty good rhythm throughout the game, which is why I shortened my bench, but the condition of the field played a role in our inability to add any more goals. A lot of credit goes to San Bernardino Valley. They came in prepared and stepped up their game. But we're very excited to be advancing to the state tournament."

With conditions less than ideal, the Falcons were able to get on the scoreboard in the fifth minute when sophomore Natalie de Leon (St. Joseph HS) scored on a hard, clean shot off a pass from sophomore Carolina Jaramillo (Cetis 54, Tijuana HS). Cerritos controlled possession of the ball for the greater majority of the game, but couldn't add to their goal total, despite out-shooting the Wolverines, 24-7.

All the while, the #5-seeded Wolverines (19-1-4) took full advantage of their limited scoring chances and received a penalty kick in the 80th minute when Falcon goalkeeper Ruby Nichols (Bishop Amat HS) was called for a penalty in the box on a collision. San Bernardino's Alondra Gildo-Ceballos stepped up and scored past the outstretched arms of Nichols.

When 120 minutes of play couldn't decide a winner, the teams prepared to go to penalty kicks. That's when Nichols stepped off to the side and had a little talk with herself.

"When I saw there were two minutes left on the clock in the second part of overtime, I started to mentally prepare myself for PKs," said Nichols, who is now 16-0-1 on the season. "I thought about all my training and how it led up to this situation and I didn't want to let my team down. After I made the first save (on the second attempt), I felt unstoppable and my confidence level rose. Then, when I made the second one, I knew we had it. This was my last game playing on this field and I wanted it to be a win."

Cerritos took the first attempt and Jaramillo scored, while SBVC's Gildo-Ceballos matched Jaramillo. Sophomore Jill Messersmith (Newport Beach HS), who played a key game in the middle and controlled the ball well, scored on the lower left side for a 2-1 advantage. From that point on, it was all Nichols, as she stopped Audrey Salas and then Jazlynn Martinez to set the team up for the win. After Messersmith, sophomore Yaqualin Garcia (Paramount HS) scored, before sophomore Dana Jacobs (Yorba Linda HS/San Francisco HS) clinched the win with her successful penalty kick.

"I started asking the players when we had a stoppage for an injury who wanted to take the kicks," added Gonzalez. "We work on it in practice and the first four came through in the win, which tells me they were still focused on the game and stepped up."

Photos by Daryl Peterson