M. Soccer: #2-seeded Falcons one win away from state tournament

Alex Ledesma made six saves to lead the Falcons over Oxnard
Alex Ledesma made six saves to lead the Falcons over Oxnard

The Cerritos College Men's Soccer Redemption Tour 2021 continued on Tuesday in the 2nd Round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs. The Falcons (16-4-1), who are seeded #2 for the playoffs, were hosting #7-seeded Oxnard College (14-3-5). Over the course of the season, Cerritos lost four games and have had a chance to face three of those teams since then and have responded with a win, with the most recent being a 1-0 decision over the Condors.

"I'm so proud of our boys," said head coach Benny Artiaga. "You had two tired teams, and with us playing 90 minutes, plus overtime in our last game, didn't allow for proper recovery. That's where our depth and discipline kicks in."

The win advances the Falcons to the state's Elite Eight, where one win will advance them to the CCCAA State Championships, which will take place on December 3rd and 5th at Mt. San Antonio College. They will find out who their opponent is by the end of the evening and Cerritos will host them at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Earlier in the year, both Long Beach City College and El Camino College handed the Falcons a loss, while the next time they met, Cerritos came away with the win. Back on September 17, Oxnard recorded a 2-1 decision on their home field, with Cerritos able to check a third team off that list with their win today. The only other team remaining is Fresno City College, the defending state champions.

Falcons celebrate after scoring the lone goal of the game With neither team able to get that finish they were looking for on an offensive push, that break finally came in the 83rd minute. Sophomore Martin Velasquez (Paramount HS) stepped up to take a free kick from about 35 yards out. Looking to get the ball to the far post, he was able to direct the ball over all of the defenders, where it landed in front of the goal, took a sideways bounce and rolled past Oxnard goalkeeper Kevin Aranda, who came on in the final minute of the first half in place of injured Efrain Perez. It appeared as though the state's leading goal scorer, Armando Ibarra, Jr. (Downey HS) had gotten a piece of the ball, but it was ruled to have gone in off the foot of Velasquez, his second of the season.

Prior to the goal, both teams had great chances to get on the scoreboard, but were turned away by a couple of nice keeper saves.

In the 61st minute, Luis Mottu had a direct shot on goal from 10 yards out, but Falcons goalkeeper Alex Ledesma (Bellflower HS) was able to make a terrific sliding save. Just seven minutes later, a nice give-and-go with freshmen Pablo Caparelli (Real Salt Lake Academy, UT HS) and Arnold Castillo (Bell Gardens HS) was turned away when Aranda made his own sliding save against Caparelli.

"Our goalie was big-time today with a couple of key saves," added Artiaga referring to Ledesma. "We're one win away from going to the Big Dance. It's always our goal to get to the state championships and now we're one win away."

The Falcons put pressure on the Oxnard defense for the majority of the game and looked to wear them down with their passing and up-tempo approach. In the first half, Perez was able to turn away all five Cerritos shots on goal, including a pair of shots from freshman Alex Rodriguez (Gertz Ressler HS).

Photos by Daryl Peterson