M. Soccer: Dominant performance earns Falcons return trip to Final Four

Armando Ibarra, Jr. leaps for joy after scoring his second goal of the game
Armando Ibarra, Jr. leaps for joy after scoring his second goal of the game

In one of their more dominant performances of the year, the Cerritos College men's soccer team defeated Oxnard College, 4-1 in the 3rd Round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs on Saturday. The Falcons (18-2-4), seeded #2 for the playoffs, have earned themselves a return trip to the CCCAA Final Four, where they will be able to defend their title. Cerritos will take on Fresno City College on Friday at DeAnza College in one of the two state semifinal games. The two teams faced each other back in the first week of the season and played to a scoreless draw. The game went into overtime and then to penalty kicks, with the Falcons coming away with a 3-1 edge. In fact, their last three meetings have been played to draws.

The win over the Condors extends their unbeatne streak against them to 16 games (10-0-6), while the Falcons are now 12-0-2 at home in the post season since 2012. Cerritos also added to their home field unbeaten streak to 39 games (34-0-5) dating back to 2016.

In their win over the #6-seeded Condors (17-4-3), Cerritos surrendered the first goal of the game in spite of controlling possession for the majority of the time. After a multitude of scoring attempts came up empty, Oxnard was able to execute on a transition and took a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute of the game. Unwavered by the goal, the Falcons regrouped and continued their pressure on the Condors defense. It finally paid off in the 31st minute when freshman defender Kendrick Garcia (Fairfax HS) entered a pass over the top, which was headed forward by sophomore defender David Lermas (Paramount HS/Compton College). That pass was then headed into the far corner post by sophomore Kevin Diaz (Connections Academy HS) for his team-leading 18th goal of the season.

The game was not without it's drama, as Oxnard was forced to play with 10 players after the 59th minute when Juse Suazo received his second yellow card of the game. It was a 2-1 game at the time and the Falcons were able to capitalize on the situation. Things got worse for the Condors when David Garcia was served a red card, leaving them with nine players for the final 30 minutes. 

Although both teams were forced to play on a muddy field with poor traction, it didn't seem to slow down Cerritos, who continuously applied pressure that resulted on scoring chances. To start the game, Diaz was turned away on a point blank shot by Condors goalkeeper Salvador Perez. However, with time running out in the first half, the Falcons were able to take the lead in the 41st minute. Coming off a corner kick, sophomore Bryan Ortega (Paramount HS) was able to advance the ball down the goal line, where he spotted freshman Armando Ibarra, Jr. (Downey HS), who chipped in a shot into an unprotected corner of the net.

"Last night's rain put a little scare into us, considering we spend hours the day before putting sand in the muddy areas and fixing the field," said head coach Benny Artiaga. "But I'm so proud of our guys. The thing I know about this group of men is they were ready to play anybody and anywhere. Oxnard is a great team and very well-coached. They move the ball around really well, so I think the conditions of the field affected them as much as it did for us."

That aggressive nature continued to carry over into the second half, where the Falcons took 13 shots at the Condor net, with two of them finding paydirt. Ortega sent a ball in front of the Oxnard net, where it was batted around a few times before sophomore defender Eugene Martinez (Delille Academy, Belize) was able to slide into the area and knocked the ball into the net.

Even with a 3-1 lead, Cerritos wasn't satisfied and added another goal nine minutes after Martinez's goal in the 64th minute. The Falcons were on top of every loose ball in the game, and Ibarra was there to cash in, as he fired off a shot from about 25 yards out to the far side of the net for his second tally of the game.

"This was an amazing environment (today)," added Artiaga. "I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to defend our title and I wouldn't want to be coaching any other team. This year we overcame more highs than lows than in years past, which makes this game a lot more satisfying."

The Falcon defense limited Oxnard to just three shot attempts on the day, compared to 24 for Cerritos. Every Condors player was neutralized and the full-force affect of the Falcons attack put pressure on the Oxnard defense.

Photos by Daryl Peterson