Nine year playoff drought ends

Strong conference finish first step for coach, players

Comet+defender+Brad+Alman+heads+the+ball+toward+goal+during+CCC%E2%80%99s+2-0+win+over+College+of+Marin+at+the+Soccer+Field+on+Nov.+14%2C+2014.

Qing Huang / The Advocate

Comet defender Brad Alman heads the ball toward goal during CCC’s 2-0 win over College of Marin at the Soccer Field on Nov. 14, 2014.

By Lorenzo Morotti , Editor-in-Chief

Even though the men’s soccer team was comprised mostly of freshman players and under new leadership, it managed to secure a playoff berth.

The fall 2014 season marked the first time that the soccer team had reached the playoffs in nine years.

CCC (11-7-3 overall, and 8-3-1 in the Bay Valley Conference) managed this feat with only a handful of sophomores under the leadership of coach Nikki Ferguson, the former women’s soccer coach, and assistant coaches Jon Scoles and Andres Ojuela.

The Comets finished in second place in the BVC beneath Mendocino College, but were knocked out in the first round of the Northern California regional playoffs after losing 3-0 to Fresno City College — a considerable improvement since these two teams first encountered each other in a non-conference game on Sept. 7 when the Rams routed the Comets 8-0.

The Ram’s coach Eric Solberg has been coaching men’s soccer for 10 years at FCC.

After defeating the Comets 3-0 in the first round of the playoffs he said they were worthy opponents the second time around.

“This is a first-year guy coaching a young team. It was a crazy game and the score is not indicative of the way these guys played,” Solberg said. “I’ve got to give (CCC) props for creating a good stepping stone for next year. We will be sure to keep the rivalry going.”

Freshman Comet striker Bryan Vega said the difference in scores between these two games embodies the development of the team’s mentality during the course of the 2014 fall season.

“We had a whole new team at the start of the season. I didn’t know anyone on the team and a lot of other players didn’t either, so there was no chemistry,” Vega said. “It was rough, and (Fresno) is a tough team to beat. So when we lost 8-0 we didn’t think we would make the playoffs.”

But after this loss, CCC went on a six-game undefeated streak until losing to Mendocino 1-0 on Oct. 10.

Ferguson agrees with Vega and said that the biggest challenge he and his staff faced was creating unity among players who come from different cultural backgrounds at the beginning of the season in order to make the playoffs.

“Breaking down cultural barriers and building trust was the toughest challenge the players faced,” Ferguson said, “Especially with our program that pulls players from different communities.”

Sophomore Bradley Alman said he was skeptical that the team would be able to do better than the season before, considering that it had such a young squad.

“I didn’t think we would make the playoffs, but by the end of the year we had great chemistry,” Alman said. “And it all started with the coaching staff (putting) into our heads the idea that we would not win games if we couldn’t trust each other.”

Freshman center defensive midfielder Nicolas Bob also said creating trust with so many different players from diverse backgrounds was only “difficult” at first.

“We started to play better when everyone on the team devoted themselves to one goal,” Bob said. “At first I only knew about four other people on the team, but once we got into the season my eyes were opened to a whole other culture of soccer players.”

Six Comet players from the 2014 fall season were selected to the BVC All-Conference teams.

Alman, freshman striker Bryan Santos and Bob were selected on the first team, while midfielders Ivan Marin, Jesus Villagrana and goalkeeper Jose Ayala were chosen for the second team.

Santos is the only Comet striker that was selected to be on the All-Conference team, as he found the back of the net 11 times in 20 games played.

Offensively, the team struggled to score, finishing the season with 33 goals overall, 20 of which came in conference play.

On defense, however, the Comets managed to secure 10 shutouts with the help of Ayala, who had a .901 save percentage, which was the highest in statewide statistics.

Next season the Comets will be without center defensive back Charlie Mendoza, Alman and right defensive full back Enri Refunjol because their eligibility is up.

Ferguson said he has two senior high school players from Pinole and Pittsburg who are committed to joining the team next semester to fill these vital defensive voids.

He said spring workouts are well underway and a sense of “excitement” for the upcoming season has swept over the team.