Comets win title, lose playoff game

By Lorenzo Morotti, Associate Editor

The men’s soccer team not only won the Bay Valley Conference title for the first time in 10 years and sealed a consecutive playoff berth, but the program created a culture of success.

“All the players put so much energy to get back to the playoffs we never really celebrated winning conference,” Comet coach Nikki Ferguson said. “ At the end of season, when we got eliminated in first round (against Fresno City College) there was a lot wind taken out of our sails. But at same time we did not necessarily realize how much we had accomplished along the way.”

Contra Costa College (12-6-4 overall, and 8-1-3 in the BVC) lost its first conference game of the season against Yuba College 2-1, but then it went on an 11-game undefeated streak in BVC.

The Comets, however, failed to carry their momentum into the second half against the Rams at Fresno in the first round of the State Playoffs. FCC scored four goals in six minutes to win 4-1.

“He was still proud of us,” sophomore left back Alejandro Gonzalez said. “It was a big step for us to make playoffs two years in a row while winning the conference title.”

Ferguson said he is proud of the sophomore players who stepped up to fill vacancies early in the season. He said these players not only adapted to their new roles, but they excelled.

“(Comet center back) Davis (Okonkwo) is a perfect example of that,” he said. “(Okonkwo) came onto the team wanting to play up top. Who would have thought he would be our starting center back all season and that he would be enrolled at Cal State-East Bay with a scholarship to play soccer.”

Okonkwo said he never thought he would be at a four-year university. He gives all the credit for his success to Ferguson for taking him out of his comfort zone and believing in his ability to learn by doing.

“(Ferguson) is one of those tough coaches that can get really pissed off, but you can sense that it’s for your own good,” he said. “(Ferguson) was trying to make us better. He took players like me and changed our positions. He saw something in me I couldn’t see and I was able to change.”

Ferguson said other sophomore players who did well to adapt are center midfielder Carlos Munoz, center back Edgar Yepes (BVC Defensive Player of the Year and MVP), Okonkwo and Gonzalez.

“Academically (Gonzalez) is off the charts.” Ferguson said. “His individual 4.0 GPA is the highest of all male athletes at Contra Costa College. But at the end of the day, I’m a firm believer that anyone can meet the demand. You have to be willing to step up and take on the challenge. And he doesn’t shy away — he loves competition.”

Despite the score lines against the Rams, Modesto Junior College and Lake Tahoe College, the Comets did not allow more than two goals in all other matches.

“It was an unforgettable season,” freshman Comet goalkeeper Eduardo Escamilla said. “I was able to represent our community all over the state. It was satisfying.”

Escamilla finished the season with 12 shutouts and 136 saves throughout the season.

Ferguson said he is excited for the 2016 season and to watch his soon-to-be sophomores Yepez, Escamilla and center midfielder Jorge Avina adapt to leadership roles.