By John M. Sherrard
(Ventura, CA) Defense wins championships! And so do goal keepers! With a swat of a Fresno City College penalty kick by freshman keeper Edwyn Gutierrez, the Mt. SAC Men's Soccer team became only the third team to win five California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) championships in the 42-year history of competition Sunday at Ventura College.
The 5-4 penalty-kick victory by the CCCAA state, top-ranked Mounties cemented their place in the history books, becoming only the second college (Santa Ana) to win as many titles in as short of a span of eight years.
Mt. SAC (19-2-3), the only team to win four consecutive titles from 2009-12, also became the only team to not score a goal in regulation in the two final four games and come away with a championship.
A major factor in the two scoreless games was Gutierrez and the solid Mountie defense.
Guitierrez, who was the overwhelming choice for the weekends' MVP, also turned away Taft on a PK attempt in the semifinal on Friday.
"Even our guys at practice couldn't put it into the goal," Mt. SAC soccer coach Juan Sanchez said. "We knew that coming in he had a ton of confidence. He's definitely the MVP of this tournament."
Gutierrez amassed 13 shutouts on the season.
After sophomore forward Michael Flores, the number six scorer in the state, calmly connected with a penalty kick in the fifth round, Gutierrez made the save on the next Fresno kicker that set off a frenzy of celebration by the Mountie soccer team and coaches.
Flores has interest from three colleges for next season in UCLA, Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge.
"On the final shot I told my teammate Mikie (Flores), if he scores it, I'll block the last one."
Gutierrez made a perfect read on the Rams' kicker.
"From the start, I read his body language and his eyes. That told me where he was going," Guitierrez said. "It was right at me."
The victory also became the only title to be decided on PKs since the 2003 Irvine Valley College win.
The game went into two fifteen-minute overtimes before the dramatic final win.
"Our team was so resilient the whole weekend," Sanchez said. "We preach defense first and we played our offense off of our defense.
"If you don't give up goals, you won't lose. (We) came up big on the PKs and we got the lucky end of the penalty kicks.
With the two teams playing very physical in the first half, numerous yellow cards were called, but no players were ejected. Eleven cards were called, including 48 fouls.
"We weren't anticipating the physical game," said Sanchez, who has helped form Mt. SAC into a consistent power final dramatic PK win.in the state over the last decade.
"In the first half we had a hard time getting used to that physical part of the game."
The Mounties, appearing in their tenth consecutive final four appearance, battled the Rams in the first half.
Sanchez knew how important his defense had to be over the weekend games, as he complimented his back line.
"Miguel (Martinez) was amazing one-on-one this year and again he did that today."
Near the end of the second overtime, Martinez saved a possible shot in close as he thwarted a Fresno forward closing in for a scoring chance.
"After he missed that PK he said to me he wanted the PK (Sunday) and he buried it. That shows his character."
"He was part of those two shutouts along with Gabriel (Silva) and Diego (Perez)," added Sanchez.
The defense, led by sophomores Martinez, Silva and Perez thwarted numerous Fresno (19-2-4) attempts that didn't result in a shot.
Gabriel realized the team also reached the championship game on its offense.
A big part of that offense was Flores with 22 goals. and sophomore midfielder Axel Mendez with 21.
"The whole season we score for the team and the last two games the defense comes through," Flores said. "They (Fresno) had a good defense."
Sophomore midfielder Axel Mendez had 21 goals for the Mounties.
"I give credit to our defense and our goalie," said Mendez, in a barely audible hoarse voice. (Edwyn) did a wonderful job and that's why he is the MVP.
"It feels awesome to win."
Freshman forward Sam Ponting, sophomore forward Martin Arrieta and freshman midfielder Jonathon Hernandez were in constant motion throughout the game attempting to get open shots, which they all did manage in the very chippy game.
"Conditioning way back in the summer was very important," said Pointing, who had a brief cramp late in the game due to the intense, late-season heat. "Especially the length of the game as we played two full games.
"I feel a real part of the team and am very comfortable here."
Ponting came to Mt. SAC from across the pond from Great Britain.
"We're used to scoring a lot, but with no scores in two games, we kept our posture and all the difference in the game was the defense. If we don't allow a goal, we won't lose.
Gabriel was just happy to get both wins on the PKs.
"Last year we lost in the semifinals and had some unfinished business this year," Martinez said. "We came back this year strong and healthy and got the win.
"Our defensive line just had to shut them down."
Sanchez also praised Martinez for his tenacity on the offensive end too, as he missed a PK attempt in the semifinal game.
"After he missed that PK he said to me he wanted the PK (Sunday). He buried it and that shows his character."
Mt. SAC had numerous opportunities in the second half but Fresno keeper Andres Castreion (9 saves) turned them aside.
"We pressed them hard in the second half," Sanchez added. "They did a good job of getting themselves out of pressure.
"This has been one of my most talented teams," Sanchez said. "….and we had to go to PKs in both games.
"I tribute it to the staff and the players. We're humbled.
"It was a hard-earned win and we prepared just a little bit better. We scored over 70-some goals (79 – second in the state) and just couldn't put it in the net this weekend. The defense prevailed and that was nice to see."
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For additional information, please contact the Mt. SAC Sports Information Office at 909.274.4630.