By Jeff Sirko
By Jeff Sirko
In a poetic ending, the Riverside City College men’s soccer team finished the season, how it began, riding a five-game win streak.
The Tigers opened the season with five straight victories, outscoring opponents 14-3. They then continued to rout opponents as they improved to 10-2 in the overall standings including four shutouts and a 9-1 annihilation of Cypress College.
Their early success came to an end as Riverside lost five straight conference matches. The strong defensive performances that led to early success for the Tigers were non-existent as they were outscored 15-5 in the five losses.
After making the necessary adjustments, the Tigers bounced back with five wins to finish conference play at 8-6. The winning streak boosted the Tigers to fourth in the Orange Empire Conference and a playoff berth.
The Tigers were selected to host their first-round playoff game against conference rival Fullerton City College.
The Tigers and Hornets split their two regular season games. The Hornets scored a 3-2 win at Fullerton in their first matchup on Oct. 14. The teams’ second meeting saw the Tigers roll to a 5-1 victory at Bobby Bonds on Nov. 7. Alberto Ramirez and Edson Cordero both scored two goals. Heriberto Negrete scored the team’s fifth goal in the victory over Fullerton.
The Tigers success late in the season, including the victory over Fullerton, boosted the team’s confidence coming into the match.
“The team that ends the season with the momentum usually does well in the playoffs, so we definitely felt some extra confidence,” assistant coach Jose Moreno said.
The Tigers used defense to control the match, holding Fullerton to only one goal.
“We had a strong first half, even though they were a strong team we came out on top,” Moreno said.
Three Riverside players, Alberto Ramirez, Fernando Corona and Tony Magena scored goals in the victory over Fullerton. The Tigers’ efforts were aided by a strong performance from goalie Antoine Williams with seven saves.
Fullerton struggled on both offense and defense.
The Hornets, seeded 10th in the tournament, only scored once and spent more than 60 minutes playing defense.
The aggressive play of Fullerton led to three starters receiving red cards for repeated fouls.
RCC head coach Francisco Melgarejo, who was disappointed with the officiating, paced the sideline while yelling for the referees to pay attention to fouls.
“I lost it for a second but you have to regain your composure” Melgarejo said.
At halftime Melgarejo stressed to his players the importance of staying focused and sticking to the strategy they planned.
The Tigers shut out the Hornets in the second half with three big saves by goalie Antoine Williams.
“I give credit to every single player, the whole team played well,” Melgarejo said
With the first round victory the Tigers traveled to Norwalk to face the No. 2 seed Cerritos. It was the first time the teams had played this season.
Cerritos, a defensive powerhouse, kept the Tigers scoreless in the match. Goalie Diego Millan stopped nine shots by the Tigers.
The Tigers also put up a strong defensive stance.
The winning goal for Cerritos came late in the second half with a breakaway shot from Luis Gonzales. He had been stopped on two previous shots but the one on one attempt was good.
The 1-0 victory for Cerritos knocked the Tigers out of contention for California Community College Athletic Association’s state championship tournament.
RCC ended its season 16-7, and is expected to have at least three players make the all-conference team.