The Santa Ana College mens soccer team won its 18th consecutive Orange Empire Conference championship; finishing the regular season with a 13-5-3 overall record and 10-3-1 in conference play. Gonzalo Toledo scored the lone goal Nov. 8 as the Dons clinched, at home, against Irvine Valley College, in the second to last game of conference play.
“It was a beautiful feeling to win at home, I felt like crying,” sophomore defender Hector Espinoza said.
“You cannot explain it in words. I feel proud of being part of such a big program,” he said.
The Dons played this season with a target on their backs the size of 17 consecutive OEC titles.
“Before the season started the players knew what was at hand,” Head Coach Jose Vasquez said.
“They didn’t want to be the team to break the streak.”
In the beginning of the season the team had leadership issues. As the season progressed, Espinoza stepped up.
“The kid leads with his hustle,” Vasquez said. “We needed someone to step up and he definitely took that role.”
Being a productive leader requires experience, assistance from fellow teammates and fearlessness in the face of adversity.
“It was my time to step up and take charge of the team,” Espinoza said. “The good thing is everybody supported me and helped me out.”
The SAC soccer field is a vast, sand-based grassland that will fatigue an underconditioned athlete. Pro-like offseason training sessions include four-mile beach runs and mountain sprints, developing the team’s endurance for an advantage when playing on a big field.
“The preseason was gruesome, but it paid off in the end,” sophomore forward Briant Rodelo said.
Like in past seasons, the Dons put together a late season hot streak to propel past the Golden West Rustlers and win the conference by two points.
The Dons won nine out of its final 11 games, including a seven-game win-streak, outscoring opponents 29-8 during the time span.
7 – The longest winning streak the team sustained. SAC was also undefeated at home.
11 – Number of team leading goals sophomore Briant Rodelo scored.
18 – Consecutive OEC Conference championships.
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