By John M. Sherrard
(Walnut, CA) How sweet it is! For the 11th consecutive year the Mt. SAC Men's Soccer Team is headed to the California Community College Athletic Association State Championships final four. The host Mounties defeated Santa Barbara City College, 1-0, in the Southern California Regional Finals to earn the berth.
The Mounties (#2 south seed) will aim to capture their sixth state championship and tie Santa Ana College with the most championships.
Mt. SAC will play Fresno City College (north #1 seed, overall record 15-1-6), a 1-0 winner over West Valley, on Friday December 1st in the state semifinal game at American River College (Sacramento, CA). Game time is 7 p.m.
The semifinal winners will play on Sunday Dec. 3 for the championship. No. 1 South Seed Cerritos will play North No. 2 Seed Taft in the other semifinal.
The Mounties defeated Fresno City last season on PKs for their fifth state title.
"They (Mt. SAC players) were motivated today because Santa Barbara City (17-1-4) hadn't lost a game and were riding a good streak," replie Mt. SAC Men's Soccer Coach Juan Sanchez. "Our guys came up for the challenge and I thought they did a very good job."
Scoring the lone goal for the Mounties was forward Andre Gamboa, the second leading scorer (tied with Sam Ponting) on the team.
After a scoreless first half, Gamboa, who had a number of shots on goal, scored in the 65th minute for the 1-0 lead.
Midfielder Jason Rocha started the play from the left side and crossed it in front of the goal, where midfielder Randy De Los Santos passed to Gamboa who put it into the left corner.
"We talked at halftime and it was a general consensus that we had to get this game done in the next 45 before the overtime," Gamboa said. "We had just come off of a long game on Tuesday (double OT win on PKs) and everyone's legs were heavy and tired and we knew we had to get it done in the 90."
Gamboa, a member of last years state championship team simply said, "It's amazing (going to state)."
Mt. SAC controlled the game early and often throughout the opening half, which included stellar play in the nets from goal keeper Edwyn Gutierrez.
"That was a relief when he put that goal in," Gutierrez said. "After he got that goal in it was a stress reliever."
In goal, Gutierrez made some crucial stops, including perhaps the biggest save of the night (75th minute) when he came far out of the goal to challenge a Santa Barbara player.
Gutierrez, who won the PK battle at last years state championships, made a goal and game saving diving grab just as the defender was going to take a shot at a wide open net.
Gutierrez recorded his 11th solo shutout and shared in three others with goalie Diego Orellana for the Mounties.
Gutierrez leads the state in two categories – save percentage (.925) and goals against avg. (0.39) and is third in goals allowed (8).
Mt. SAC is tied with Taft with 15 shutouts this season.
Sprinting up and down the field all night was midfielder Jose Santoyo and Sam Ponting, setting up their teammates who took an amazing 25 shots in the game.
"It's always disappointing to miss opportunities in front of the goal," said Ponting, who scored the winning PK in the overtime of the second-round game on Tuesday.
"The identity of this team is our defensive work rate and if we miss 10 and don't concede a goal, we only need one."
Jason Ramos, who is the last line of defense in front of Gutierrez, kept Santa Barbara from getting any good shots off in the game.
"Defense always comes first," said Ramos, who played for Peninsula College, in Port Angeles Washington, his freshman year. "You can score all the goals you want, but if you don't get scored on then you don't lose."
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For additional information please contact the Mt. SAC Sports Information Office 909-274-4630.