M. Soccer: Team has 10 players earn conference awards

Armando Ibarra & Benny Artiaga with the SCC Tournament Trophy
Armando Ibarra & Benny Artiaga with the SCC Tournament Trophy

After capturing the South Coast Conference regular season and tournament championships, the Cerritos College men's soccer team was honored with 10 of their players receiving awards. In addition to that, head coach Benny Artiaga was named the South Division Coach of the Year, which is the sixth time in his tenure he's received the award.

"I'm very honored to win this award amongst well-respected colleagues," said Artiaga, who will be leading his #2-seeded Falcons into the Southern California Regional Playoffs on Saturday. "Winning any award is an opportunity for me to honor my staff. My staff does an amazing job and this award is for them."

Sophomore Armando Ibarra, Jr. (Downey HS) was named the division's Offensive Player of the Year, while freshman Alex Ledesma (Bellflower HS) was selected as the division's Co-Goalie of the Year. The Falcons had four others named 1st Team all-conference, while four others received 2nd Team recognition.

Ibarra Jr. who is tied for third in the state in goals (17), has started to regain his scoring touch after an injury slowed him for a while. Over an eight-game stretch during the season, Ibarra Jr. scored 12 goals and has accounted for three in the last two games.

As the team's primary goalkeeper, Ledesma has posted a 12-3-0 record with an 0.84 goals against average and has had a hand in six shutouts. He recorded five straight shutouts and had a streak of 610 minutes without allowing a goal.

"I'm extremely proud of Armando Ibarra for winning this award (Offensive Player of the Year) because he's been the rock of this team," added Artiaga. "I told him at the beginning of the year we would go as far as he would take us. And I'm equally proud of Alex Ledesma. He was a guy that almost gave up soccer after Covid and to see him perform the way he has throughout the season has been inspiring."

Earning 1st Team recognition included freshmen midfielders Antonio Negrete (St. John Bosco HS), Arnold Castillo (Bell Gardens HS) and Uriel Sanchez (Servite HS), along with freshman defender Ernesto Vergara (Salesian HS). Negrete may only have on goal this season, but he has been one of the cornerstones of the Falcons all-around play that requires everyone to play solid defense. Although he doesn't have as many goals as Castillo (five) or Sanchez (three), without the play of Negrete, the Falcons would not have been able to create their offense. Castillo has used his speed to help him score five times, while he has assisted on six goals, and posted a goal and two assists in the Falcons conference tournament championship.

Sanchez has been a wonderful addition to the team. Missing the first four games, the infusion of Sanchez into the lineup paid immediate dividends, as he scored in his first two games and had a three-game stretch where he assisted on goals. Using his size and skillset to not only withhold opposing players from entering the Falcons offensive zone, Vergara has been a key to clearing the ball out of trouble and helps jumpstart the offense with his passing accuracy.

Those receiving 2nd Team honors were freshmen defenders Jaret Rocha (Paramount HS) and Mikel Villarreal (St. John Bosco HS), along with freshmen midfielders Pablo Caparelli (Real Salt Lake Academy, UT HS) and Miguel Martinez (Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy HS). Just the presence of Rocha and Villarreal in the back row has been one of keys the team's defensive success, while the speed of Villarreal on the edge has also helped spark the offense. Caparelli has started seeing his year-long offensive production finally come to fruition, as he has scored all four of his goals over a seven-game stretch and has assisted on six others. Martinez has been a quiet leader and although he hasn't racked up the goals, his consistency has allowed others to finish off plays.