Title within reach after road sweep

Comets extend conference win streak to six games

By Lorenzo Morotti, Associate Editor

The men’s soccer team won its final two road games of the season to secure first or second place in the Bay Valley Conference standing with two home matches left to play.

Contra Costa College (6-1-1 in BVC, 10-7-2 overall) shut out Mendocino College 3-0 on Nov. 1, and beat Yuba College 4-1 on Friday to move into first place as of press time on Tuesday.

CCC’s final conference game is against second place Napa Valley College (5-1-1 in the BVC, 6-9-1) at the Soccer Field on Friday at 4 p.m.

Depending on the result of Merritt College versus the Storm and the Comets’ match against College of Marin Tuesday — the stakes of Friday’s game on the Soccer Field could be for the BVC  championship and a direct seed to the first round of the 2016 NorCal Regional Playoffs.

But Comet coach Nikki Ferguson said while the players are aware of this scenario, the young team must keep its focus in the final third of the field to extend its six-game winning streak.

“We have to take these last two games one opponent at a time,” Ferguson said. “Our competition this year has not been easy, and it will only get tougher.”

He said the main challenge this season has been a lack of finishing during scoring opportunities. Attacking players have become more clinical in front of goal. These two games embody the change.

“I’m proud of this young team finding its identity with two huge wins,” he said. “Now we are in good position to win the BVC championship and make the playoffs for a third year in a row.”

Since its 1-1 tie against Merritt College on Oct. 4, Comet center attacking midfielder Juvenal Pena, center forward Jordan Flechero and striker George Burrows have led the team in goals and assists.

During the subsequent six- game winning streak, Pena scored four goals and tallied two assists, Flechero slotted two goals and supplied three assists and Burrows finished three scoring opportunities while serving up one assist.

Seven of those goals were scored in the games against Mendocino and Yuba colleges last week.

“We were trying to prove something,” Flechero said. “People have not seen us play as well as we know we can, especially coming into the league with a title to defend. We have a lot of talented players, but we haven’t seen them work together until these last few games.”

On Friday against Yuba College, the men’s soccer team entered the second half trailing 1-0 off of an error by Pena in the midfield. But by 10 minutes into the second half the Comets tied the game and by minute 75 they led the 49ers 3-1.

“The first half was tough, and the second half was tougher. But unlike the first game against Yuba (a 2-1 home loss), we took advantage of scoring opportunities,” Pena said. “We were down 1-0 at the half and came back to win 4-1. (The 49ers) only goal came off my mistake.”

Pena said he received a pass in the Comet defensive third. But when he tried to shake a 49er, the ball was stolen and the resulting counter attack led to a goal.

“It haunted me,” he said. “Going into the game we knew we had to get the win.”

Pena tapped in the final goal of the game to seal a 4-1 win with less than 10 minutes left to play.

Comet goalkeeper Eduardo Escamilla said the shutout against Mendocino shows the team’s defensive prowess.

“A major component in keeping teams from scoring on us has been thanks to us in the back,” Escamilla said. “Combining our captains’ experience with the driving force of new players has been the key to our defensive success.”