W. Soccer: Defending champs advance with OT win

Erika Garcia scores the game-winning goal for the Falcons in the playoffs
Erika Garcia scores the game-winning goal for the Falcons in the playoffs

In each of their recent five straight CCCAA State Championships, the Cerritos College women's soccer team was extended to overtime in at least one of the games each season. On Saturday, in their 1st Round Southern California Regional Playoff Game, the #4-seeded Falcons (19-1-1) showed a flair for the dramatic, as they scored in extra time during regulation to send their game into overtime and then added the eventual game-winner in the 107th minute in a 2-1 win over #13-seeded San Diego Mesa College (14-5-2). Cerritos will now host South Coast Conference North Division opponent Chaffey College, who defeated Southwestern College on penalty kicks.

The Falcons defeated the #5-seeded Panthers (17-4-1), 3-1 at home back on October 24.

Facing an Olympians team that had allowed just five goals all season, Cerritos found themselves trailing, 1-0 in the 27th minute when Ana Sofia Salas bounced a shot that went over the head of freshman goalkeeper Deisy Rodriguez (Katella HS). The Falcons struggled to find any success against the SD Mesa collapsing defense that prevented them from stringing multiple passes together and at times dropped back anywhere from eight to nine players on defense.

But a new approach in the second half led to Cerritos maintaining possession of the ball 95% of the time, but it only resulted in four shots on goal. With the game in extra time, the Falcons were awarded a free kick from just outside the top of the 18-yard box. The shot attempt by freshman Mia Ramirez (Torrance HS) was deflected out on the end line, resulting in a corner kick. The kick by Ramirez was perfectly sent in front of the goal crease and after the ball was deflected by goalkeeper Lilian Hill, sophomore Jacky Beristain (Foothill HS/South Carolina State University) was there to head the ball into the net, which turned out to be seconds before the final whistle blew.

The Falcons made a decision with 16 minutes left to replace a defender with an additional forward to help them try and tie the game. The tactic worked to their advantage, as they continued to pressure the San Diego Mesa defense, which led to the game-tying goal.

In the first extra session, Cerritos continued to possess the ball the majority of the time, and early in the second OT period, freshman defender Erika Garcia (Downey HS) was in the right spot at the right time and chipped home a loose ball into an open corner of the net after Beristain worked for a loose ball in front of the net and Ramirez saw her tip shot turned away by Hill.

"You have to give a lot of credit to San Diego Mesa," said head coach Ruben Gonzalez. "They came out playing very aggressive and it affected the way we were playing. But we talked at halftime about being the aggressor and it paid off with the late goal and then the overtime goal."

Cerritos was not without scoring chances in the second half, but were turned away by Hill, who made 10 saves. In the 65th minute, both Beristain and freshman Claudia Soto (Chino Hills HS) had scoring chances off a corner kick, while Beristain saw Hill make a falling save on a low shot in the 81st minute, which at the time, kept the Falcons off the scoreboard. By the end of the game, Cerritos had 25 shot attempts (12 on goal), compared to just five attempts (four on goal) by the Olympians.

The win by Cerritos extended their playoff winning streak to 26 games, as the team is looking to win their sixth straight CCCAA State Championship and eighth overall.

"Going further in the playoffs, we need to be the aggressor and not play as timid," added Gonzalez. "We were able to pull this one out, though. Good teams create their own luck and we fought hard to get past San Diego Mesa."

Photos by Daryl Peterson