Two goals, scored only minutes into each of the halves, in a shutout win at Napa Valley College on Friday snapped a three-game losing streak for the Comet men’s soccer team.
Contra Costa College goalkeeper Eduardo Escamilla stopped the Storm from surging into the game with five saves by the end of a 2-0 Bay Valley Conference win — the team’s fourth clean sheet of its 10 games this season.
After its second BVC game, CCC (5-4-1 overall, 1-1 in the BVC) is among the top three teams vying for first place in the conference standings with three points as of press time Tuesday.
“(The Sept. 29) loss to Yuba brought the team together,” said CCC center attacking midfielder Jorge Avina, who Friday scored off a botched Storm clearance and also tallied an assist. “(Against NVC) we controlled the game by keeping possession, and it let us create scoring opportunities. Everyone was doing his job, so we took advantage of the (scoring) plays we had.”
CCC is in third place behind Mendocino College (1-0-1, four points in conference) and first-place Yuba College (2-0, six points in conference), but is ahead of Merritt and Folsom Lake colleges in the standings due to its .550 winning percentage, 25 goals scored and overall record. The Comets will return to the Soccer Field to play for second place against Mendocino on Friday at 4 p.m.
The Comets’ two goals, scored by striker Bryan Vega and Avina four and 48 minutes into the game, provided a brace for the defense to play possession tactics to hold the Storm’s frustrated long-ball offense and secure .50 power points in the BVC standings.
Escamilla and Avina said when the Storm regained possession, it tended to launch the ball down the field and rely on the pace of strikers to finish the play.
“We were playing possession soccer,” Avina said. “They were playing kickball.”
At about the 70-minute mark, however, one of these long balls initiated a counter attack that almost brought the Storm within a goal of tying.
Comet goalie Escamilla rushed out from the net to the edge of the penalty area to diffuse a one-on-one situation produced from a Storm through ball that the Comets’ “tense” defense, he said, could have stopped if it played the offside trap.
“When I realized he was onside, I came off the goal line,” he said. “I noticed the ball was bouncing, so I knew he was either going to try and chip (the ball) over me or try and dribble it to the side and shoot. I had to read his mind.
“So I put my arms up to stop his option of chipping it over me,” Escamilla said. “He hesitated and tried to adjust but it was too late. I read his mind and smothered the ball before he could shoot.”
This key save brought his season’s total to 46, ninth best in the state, according to cccaasports.org.
Comet coach Nikki Ferguson said that midfielder Cristian Garibay was a vital playmaker by keeping possession in Napa Valley’s defensive third, which gave time for Avina, Vega and attacking winger Missael Hernandez make overlapping runs into space near the goal.
At four minutes into the game, Hernandez had sprinted into space along the right attacking wing and sent a short pass to Avina at the corner of the penalty area.
Avina said he then passed the ball to Vega who slotted a left-footed shot into the right side of the goal past Storm goalkeeper Sebastian Romero.
Escamilla said even though they were able to get a good result and break a three-game losing streak, the team should not become complacent with a single win.
“We need to keep playing our best to not get comfortable after this win,” he said. “We need to play every match like it is our last — that is the difference between a team that just makes the playoffs and one that wins the championship.”