MEN SOCCER: Dons finish second place in Conference championship.
Freshman midfielder Christian Duarte assisted on two goals in less than five minutes as the Dons repelled visiting Irvine Valley College 2-0, Nov. 6. It was the least celebrated win in almost two decades.
For the first time since 1994, Santa Ana College will not win the Orange Empire Conference men’s soccer championship, finishing second.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Head Coach Jose Vasquez said.
Vasquez has presided over 18 consecutive OEC titles, starting when he was an assistant.
“We had lapses in games at home,” Vasquez said.
Through 13 OEC matches, the Dons won nine, lost two and tied two. The two losses and one of the ties came in front of the home crowd.
In the 57th minute against IVC, Duarte stole the ball from a Lasers’ defender and bent a pass to freshman forward Damian Marquez, who struck a low ball past the goalkeeper for the Dons’ second goal of the game.
“We practice it during the week, trailers. Someone has to be in the middle,” Duarte said.
“I saw a red shirt, knew that was my friend, centered it and he knocked it in for a goal.”
The second-place Dons showed up for the first half against the Lasers.
“It was unacceptable,” Vasquez said. “They needed to wake up and start playing the Santa Ana-style of soccer.”
Golden West College, the OEC champions, beat SAC Oct. 16 on a penalty kick goal, after the referee called Dons’ goalkeeper Jose Garcia for a yellow card in the 72nd minute of the game setting up.
Following the loss to GWC the Dons put together a modest three-game winning-streak, then tied back-to-back games, including a 0-0 draw at home against Fullerton College, cementing the second-place finish.
Vasquez noted a few key differences from teams in the past.
“I feel passion and unity were lacking. Our best teams started in the locker room,” Vasquez said. “And it’s cost us this year.”
This season also marked Vasquez’s first season as co-head coach of the women’s soccer team alongside Jessica Rapoza, co-head coach of softball. Vasquez calls it a questionable move.
“We are trying to build foundation for the women’s team,” Vasquez said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted to go, but next year we will start earlier.”