BVC champions buckle in playoffs

Comets conclude title drought, lose to Rams again

Ram+midfielder+Sergio+Segura+shields+the+ball+from+Comets+Pedro+Rodriguez+and+Alejandro+Gonzalez+during+Contra+Costa+College%27s+playoff+game+against+Fresno+City+College+at+Fresno+City+College+on+Nov.+21.

Cody Casares / The Advocate

Ram midfielder Sergio Segura shields the ball from Comets Pedro Rodriguez and Alejandro Gonzalez during Contra Costa College's playoff game against Fresno City College at Fresno City College on Nov. 21.

By Lorenzo Morotti, Associate Editor

The men’s soccer team not only sealed its first Bay Valley Conference Championship in 10 years, it also secured a consecutive berth into the NorCal Regional playoffs.

When the Comet coaching staff and players clinched the BVC championship and a consecutive playoff spot, they did not expect they would be seeded to play the same team that handed them a 3-0 shutout playoff last year — the Fresno City College Rams.

Despite freshman Comet striker Alan Morales scoring a goal at minute 80, Contra Costa College (12-6-4 overall, 8-1-3 in the BVC) buckled defensively 15 minutes into the second half at Fresno (13-5-2 overall, 4-2 in the Central Valley Conference) to lose 4-1 on Nov. 21 — ending the Comets’ seven game undefeated streak.

“It’s tough to go on the road and win, especially in the playoffs. But it was a hard-fought game,” Rams’ coach Eric Solberg said. “It was a better game than the last time we played. (The Comets) are moving in the right direction.

“If (CCC) found a goal first it would have been a whole different game. But thankfully we had good runs at the start of both halves.”

Starting at minute 60, the Rams scored four goals during a seven-minute stretch to smother the Comets’ chance of progressing further into the playoffs.

“It was a battle between two good teams,” Comet coach Nikki Ferguson said. “It was just a matter of who was going to capitalize on a mistake first.”

At minute 67, the Comets trailed 4-0 despite their defense only allowing three opposing teams to score more than two goals in their 22-game season.

“We sort of broke their spirit by scoring three goals in four minutes (60, 61 and at minute 64),” Solberg said. “But during the last 15 minutes (the Comets) played their butts off. I saw (Ferguson) pacing the sideline yelling ‘keep fighting — don’t give up.’  I was impressed.”

Under a clear sky and the roar of support from Rams fans who chanted, “Let’s go FCC/ Let’s go,” the Comets struggled to find an offensive flow throughout the first half.

“All it takes is one goal,” Ferguson said. “When you worked hard to make it to the playoffs, getting scored on takes a moment to soak in because of all the blood, sweat and tears shed to get here.”

FCC outshot CCC three to two at the end of the first half, but by the end of the game the Rams’ offense dominated with 10 shots to the Comets’ four.

“Going down 1-0 was mentally draining, especially when the score was 0-0 at halftime,” Ferguson said.  

Comet center defensive midfielder Jesus Villagrana said, “We did not stay disciplined enough. The foul committed near (the penalty area) cost us the whole game.”

Ram center attacking midfielder Sergio Segura initiated the scoring spree off a free kick at minute 60. Segura bent in a blistering left-footed shot into the top left corner of the goal, from 22 yards out, past a fully extended Comet goalkeeper.

“It hurt,” Comet freshman goalkeeper Eduardo Escamilla said. “No one in the (BVC) has ever taken a shot on goal like that. It was a real wake up call.”

After the game, Escamilla had 83 saves to finish in 15th place in most saves statewide.

Ferguson said going down a goal was a “shock” as “(the Comets) have been talking about this game from day one of this season.

But despite the final score, Ferguson said he is proud of the team’s progress since he took the position as coach of the men’s soccer team two years ago and having to make do without key players Nic Bob, who quit for personal reasons, and Kevin Navas, who tore his ACL before the start of the season.

The team also dealt with lead goal scorer Pedro Rodriguez (nine goals) warming the bench for three games after suffering a foot injury against Lake Tahoe College on Sept. 25 — one game before it lost its conference opener 2-1 to Yuba College — and Missael Hernandez having to get six stitches on his left nostril after a Mendocino College player stomped his nose under his cleat in the dying minutes of a 1-1 tie on Nov 3.

“We have a lot of personalities on our team,” he said. “I am proud of our sophomores and what they have accomplished over the last two years; earning consecutive playoff spots and winning the BVC championship this year.”

Not only was Ferguson voted as BVC Coach of the Year for leading his squad into the playoffs and ending a 10-year drought without a BVC title, three Comet players were voted to the All-Conference First Team and four were voted Second Team All-Conference.

Centerback Edgar Yepez earned Defensive Player of the Year and BVC MVP honors.