Brian Lewis has the highlights from the second round of Southern California Playoffs. Photographed and edited by Brian Lewis.
CERRITOS – It seems like déjà vu.
Nearly one year to the day, the College of the Canyons men’s soccer team has mirrored last season’s squad. Now the trick is to end the similarities.
The No. 6 College of the Canyons Cougars advanced to the Southern Califonia regional finals on Tuesday, defeating No. 3 Cerritos Falcons 2-1 in a physical road game.
The Cougars (15-5-2) will now face No. 2 Santa Ana as they beat No. 7 Irvine Valley today 1-0. A Santa Ana win sends COC on another road trip. Santa Ana defeated the Cougars 4-1 earlier this season, and knocked COC out of the playoffs last season. For the Falcons (11-3-9), it was another disappointing end to the season.
“We want to be careful not to think about anything other than playing our game,” said head coach Phil Marcellin. “We’re a different team right now than when we played Santa Ana in the preseason.”
COC got on the board first when Victor Rodriguez scored in the 47th minute off of a set piece just outside of the goalie box. Cerritos answered immediately, when Rene Hernandez pounded a shot past Cougar goalie Alex Burkevics in the 55th minute.
But it was Rodriguez who stunned Cerritos with a goal off of a corner kick to put the game away in the 63rd minute. COC used ball possession to finish off the game, and Cerritos only had one shot on goal in the final 20 minutes. The game was a dream moment for Rodriguez.
“It was a really big moment for me,” said freshman mid fielder Victor Rodriguez. “To come into the playoffs and score two and help our team win the game is really big. It helps keeps us motivated.”
The Cougars were outshot 6-1 in the first half, but Burkevics made several sprawling saves to keep the Cougars alive. At halftime, Marcellin made a few small adjustments, and Burkevics knew if he could keep his team in the game, the Cougars would prevail in the end.
“I knew if I could keep the ball out of the net for at least the first 20 minutes our team would get into it and we would take it to them,” said freshman goalie Alex Burkevics.