M. Soccer: Win advances team to conference tournament final

Cerritos men's soccer team gathers together before their game
Cerritos men's soccer team gathers together before their game

Through the first 80 minutes of their South Coast Conference Tournament semifinal game against El Camino College, the Cerritos College men's soccer team put on a dominant performance. The #2-seeded Falcons (15-1-4) were holding a 4-0 lead and went on to post a 4-2 win after a pair of late Warrior (11-2-5) goals. With the win, Cerritos, who is responsible for both El Camino losses this season, advances to the championship game, which will take place on Friday at 7:00 p.m. and will be played at El Camino College.

"We played extremely well today," said Falcon head coach Benny Artiaga. "Those were some really nice goals (we scored). That third goal was a thing of beauty."

Cerritos took a 2-0 lead into intermission, which included a goal in extra time. Leading 1-0 after sophomore Bryan Villalobos (Salesian HS) finished off a nice series of passes with a one-timer, the Falcons put a dagger into the Warriors with their late goal. Continuing their sharp passing, sophomore Alexis Vera (Fremont HS) sent a pass out of the defensive zone to freshman Martin Velasquez (Paramount HS). Not wasting any time, he crossed the ball to freshman Armando Ibarra, Jr. (Downey HS), who chipped the ball into an open net.

The goal Artiaga was referring to came in the 55th minute. With complete dominance of the ball and tempo of the game, sophomore Bryan Ortega (Paramount HS) brought the ball into the 18-yard box and sent a crossing pass to sophomore Kevin Diaz (Connections Academy HS), who finished the play with a beautifully directed ball in the air that found the back of the net.

"I am very proud of the guys," added Artiaga. "We seemed to have hit a bump (recently), but one thing I can count on with this team is that they will be ready against the better teams."

The lead became 4-0 in the 80th minute on one of the more unselfish plays witnessed all season. With the Falcons on a 2-on-1 situation, sophomore Dominic Valdivia (Loyola HS/Creighton University) gave up an open shot on goal and passed the ball to Diaz, who found the goalkeeper out of position and scored his second of the game into an open spot of the net.

The Warriors did post two goals in the final 10 minutes, with the second being a spectacular bicycle kick from Cristo Deras in the 83rd minute.

Starting goalkeeper Luis Enciso (Gahr HS) did not allow a goal in his 80 minutes on the field and recorded four saves. Cerritos out-shot the Warriors, 17-10.