Comets roster adds talent, gives hope to go further into playoffs

Coaches, players intent to surpass successful season

By Lorenzo Morotti, Associate Editor

After reaching the playoffs for the first time in nine years last season, the men’s soccer team aims to not only repeat a post conference berth, but also go beyond the first round.

Contra Costa College men’s soccer coach Nikki Ferguson is returning for his second go at controlling the rudder to direct the 2015 season to go past the benchmark he set last year.

Twenty-three players are on the official roster.

“We have a deeper pool of talent now than we did last year when we (surpassed) people’s expectations,” Ferguson said. “Most of the players (last season) didn’t think we were capable, but we found a way to pull it off. I believed we would make the playoffs even though we lost the first three games of the season.”

He said the stark contrast, a positive record four games into non-conference play this year has made him “anxious” to see how well the team will do later in the season.

Freshman left midfielder Jorge Lopez said he is “optimistic” that the team will be able to reach the playoffs after its decisive 5-0 win against Butte College.

Lopez said, “We have a lot of potential this year if we can keep building on our energy during games and trust each other to develop a consistent team chemistry.”

The Comets (2-1-1 overall, 0-0 in the Bay Valley Conference as of press time), however, will make due without a few key players from last year’s playoff season.

Brad Alman, who is ineligible to play after two seasons in the program, watched CCC’s first home game of the season against Evergreen Valley College from the bleachers.

“The game was a tale of two halves,” Alman said. “CCC was down in the first half but brought it right back to (EVC) in the second. A 1-1 draw is indicative how well these two teams can play.

“I thought it was a relatively strong performance considering it lost a couple of center backs because of eligibility and a few players quit last minute.”

In particular, these are center backs Charlie Mendoza, Alman and center defensive midfielder Nic Bob.

Bob and Alman were named to the Bay Valley Conference all-conference first team at the end of last season.

Mendoza and Alman cannot be a part of the team because their eligibility is up. Bob, however, said he left the team after its 1-1 home tie against EVC on Aug. 29 because of a “tough personal situation” and refused further comment.

“(Bob) was an important piece for the season,” Ferguson said. “But he decided he didn’t want to make a commitment, out of personal opinion, so I didn’t press him. I’m here to provide opportunities for individuals — not to be a parent.”

Alman, however, said Bob’s departure is a “big loss” because he was a good leader, “but soccer is all about the next man up — someone has to step up and fill that role.”

Athletic Director John Wade said Bob could rejoin the team if he wanted “but that is between him and (Ferguson).”

“Will we miss out on getting some players on the all-conference first team this year? Sure,” Ferguson said. “But we need to move forward —one person does not make a team.”

He said sophomore defender Alejandro Gonzalez has already replaced Bob as team captain.

Other players returning to the team from Ferguson’s resurgent playoff season are forwards Bryan Vega, Brian Santos, Carlos Munoz, Jesus Villagrana, Missel Hernandez, Rafael Torres and Kevin Navas. 

Other sophomore players retuning to the fold, but missed out on last season’s playoff berth because of unit restrictions, are forward Pedro Rodriguez, and fullback Davis Okonkwo.

As a whole however, the team has an almost even mix of returning sophomores and their freshman counterparts. Currently, there are 12 freshman compared to 10 sophomores.

Comet center back Crisitan Garibay said the new players add a lot of talent, but the sophomores have to rise to leadership roles to help them develop.

Garibay said the best learning experience so far for the freshman Comets was a 6-1 scoreline against Modesto Junior College that is not indicative of how the game went.

Comet striker Bryan Vega said they went down by three goals after MJC only had three shots while CCC struggled in front of the goal.

Vega said that all changed in the subsequent game against BC however.

“We had a lot of chances we didn’t capitalize against Modesto that we were able to convert against Butte,” he said. “It built our team confidence because we were able to keep composed even after such a hard loss (against MJC).

“It will be important to keep this momentum up, build our team chemistry and develop talents — if we do this then we will make playoffs.”