Comets clinch playoffs in shutout

Men’s soccer team reaches post season first time in 9 years

By Lorenzo Morotti, Editor-in-Chief

Despite wasting a slew of goal scoring chances, the men’s soccer team kept its composure throughout its ultimate game of the season to shut out the College of Marin at the Soccer Field on Friday.

Contra Costa College (11-6-3 overall, 8-3-1 in the Bay Valley Conference), defeated the Mariners 2-0 by managing to slip a goal past goalkeeper Will Finnie moments before halftime and again late in the second half.

College of Marin (10-5-4 overall, 8-4-0 in the BVC) dropped from second place in the conference standings to third after its offense was muffled by a tight knit Comet team, determined to keep possession and secure a spot among the top 14 Northern California teams invited to the playoffs.

The Comets finished in 12th place among the Northern California regional standings, making it the first time the team has reached the playoffs in nine years. 

Coach Nikki Ferguson said because it had tougher competition in the BVC this season, CCC accumulated power points to be invited to play in the 2014 CCCAA Men’s Soccer NorCal Regional Championships.

It will travel to play Fresno City College in a first round game of the post season on Saturday at 2 p.m. 

The Comets sealed their victory over Marin and their playoff berth at 80 minutes when left midfielder Jesus Villagrana’s cross connected with striker Bryan Santos at the far post who nudged the ball into goal with his head.

“There was nothing I could do to stop that header,” Finnie said. “On the break, (CCC) sent a cross into the box from the left wing toward the back post and (Santos) snuck past the backline to get there.”

The play developed from the backfield when a diagonal aerial pass reached striker Bryan Vega about 40 yards out from the Mariner goal.

“I received the ball from (Vega) and looked up to see if I could cross it but there was not much space,” Villagrana said. “I decided to dribble it to the end line and hit it to the second post. I figured someone should be there and it was (Santos).”

Villagrana was responsible for assisting both headed goals scored by Santos.

“The second goal was beautiful,” Comet center back Charlie Mendoza said. “Majestic even.”

At stoppage time of the first half, the Comets’ offense surged into the attacking third and forced defender Austin Sewell to make a reckless tackle just outside the penalty area in the left wing.

Villagrana set up to take the free kick. He struck the ball with his right foot to lift it up and toward the far post. As it was dropping, Santos overpowered Marin’s defenders to redirect the ball just inside the post using his head.

Mariner coach Swap Mushiana said the late first half goal “deflated” the team morale going into the second half.

“It was a tough, tough, loss but I’ve got to give it to (CCC). It’s legit. We lost to the better team today.”

The Mariners struggled throughout the game to match the rhythm of the Comets’ passing play and fitness level. It became apparent in the second half when CCC had multiple chances to score. But rushed shots sent the ball either wide or into Finnie’s gloves.

CCC outshot the Mariners 14 to 9 by the full 90 minutes but was dangerously close to scoring only moments after the outset of the game.

Comet assistant coach Jon Scoles said, “We should have been up by three or four goals. But at the end of the day we got the win.”

A play developed along the right touchline of the field. The Comet right fullback Enri Refunjol burst past a Marin defender and sent a cross to the near post to center midfielder Ivan Marin. His resulting shot did not only shake the framework of the goal but the Mariners’ confidence as well.

“The pivotal play was when (Marin) hit the post in the first minute,” Comet center back Bradley Alman said. “As soon as you hit the post it gives you so much more to believe in. It was then that I knew we could do this. We could win.”

Defensively, CCC managed to keep its shape during COM counter attacks and drives but resulted to fouling 10 times to stop scoring chances.

Scoles said, “We like to keep possession and don’t mind giving up a couple fouls to keep it.”