Dons knock BVC champions out of NorCal regional playoffs

Comets rue fouls, cede three goals during set piece plays

Comet’s forward Juvenal Pena (right) slide tackles Don’s forward Alexis Estrella-Preciado during CCC’s 3-1 loss to DeAnza College in the first round of the 2016 NorCal Regional Playoffs in Cupertino on Nov. 19.

By Lorenzo Morotti and Efrain Valdez

Cupertino — Three goals scored from set-pieces eliminated the men’s soccer team in the first round of the 2016 NorCal Regional Playoffs amid frigidly damp conditions on Saturday against De Anza College.

The Dons’ fast and direct style of play repeatedly tested CCC’s defensive backline until it sealed a 3-1 home win.

This loss not only elimated the Comets from the playoffs, but it sealed three consecutive seasons ending in the first round of the playoffs.

Don striker Kevin Perez curled a sublime free kick around Comet goalkeeper Eduardo Escamilla from about 23 yards from goal after scoring two earlier penalty kicks to complete his hat trick at minute 74.

Comet midfielder Juvenal Pena’s goal at minute 22 boosted the team’s confidence and offensive pressure until the end of the first half.

Comet sophomore center back Edgar Yepez said the Don’s direct long ball style of play spread the defense thin and separated CCC’s midfield and defensive backline.

“We never really got the chance to settle down and play our game,” Yepez said. “We were down by two goals early and we got one before the half but the game didn’t pan out the way we wanted.”

Contra Costa College (12-8-2 overall, 8-1-1 in Bay Valley Conference) only combined to create four shots on goal, one corner kick and accumulated 15 fouls by the end of the game.

De Anza College’s (13-2-6 overall 7-1-5 in Coast-South Conference) tallied 14 shots and 10 corner kicks and committed 12 fouls by the end of the playoff match.

Escamilla’s 15 saves kept the Comets within two, or one goal throughout the game.

While he did not allow any goals during normal run of play, fouls that resulted in free kicks, corners or penalty kicks allowed the Dons to run away with the win.

“We had more possession and I feel like that made the difference,” De Anza College men’s soccer coach Rusty Johnson said. “Our tactic was to deal with their long balls so they could not get it to their athletic players up top.

“They definitely got us thinking when they put us at 2-1 (in the first half), but (Perez’s) final goal (in the second half) pretty much sealed the deal,”

Perez rounded off his hat-trick when Comet left fullback Eduardo Torres fouled inside the penalty area resulting in another penalty kick at minute 74.

Torres also fouled De Anza winger Josh Varon in the penalty area in the first half, giving the Dons a 2-0 lead at minute 14.

“I think it was poor defending on my part,” Torres said. “I think I could have done a better job of finding the right time to step into their attackers. I don’t think their attackers were better than any of the other teams that we faced throughout the season — it was just a lack of focus. I could have done a much better job defending.”

But when Perez slotted the penalty kick into the goal off of Escamilla’s gloves and the post at minute 75, a CCC comeback was muffled.

“We gave a valiant effort,” Comet coach Nikki Ferguson said. “I thought we played pretty well, but there were few times when we made simple mental mistakes. I mean to give up three goals off of set pieces, two of them being (penalty kicks), that is hard to deal with — and it’s even tougher when all those goals came through (Torres’ errors).”

Ferguson said Torres has been the rock in the backline for much of this season, but the Don’s high press and quick counters wore him down.

“Today was just a nightmare for him and he couldn’t recover from it for some reason,” Ferguson said. “But at the end of the day I’m proud of my guys, we’ve done many great things this year. It obviously it sucks to be in this position but I tip my hat to them.”

He said he expects about 80 percent of the team to return next year as sophomores.

Escamilla said losing again in the first round of the playoffs stings, but there are improvements that should be recognized.

“We lost by less so that is an improvement from last year.” he said. “We gave up all goals off of set pieces. The first goal was scored off a free kick, the second goal from a penalty and third goal from another penalty.”

The team that made the least mistakes won today. We played a good game and didn’t quit until the end.”