After 10 years the Dons are once again Orange Empire Conference champions. The last time that Santa Ana won the conference was in 2011.
This conference title is being shared with Golden West College after both teams ended with the same conference record of 6-2-4. The Rustlers have been the strongest opponents for the Dons winning conference four times in the past 10 years. From 1994-2011 Santa Ana won the OEC every year, but for the past decade they struggled to be a top 3 team. The Dons secured their 27th championship since 1976 after comfortably defeating Orange Coast College 3-1 on Friday, Nov. 12.
The Dons team chemistry has grown throughout the season, and their communication was on full display with all three goals coming from set pieces. Freshman forward Joshua Lezama was the set piece specialist all game with both a free kick and corner kick that led to a goal. Lezama added a total of eight assists and one goal this conference run.
Freshman midfielder Julian Cardenas gave the Dons an early lead in the seventh minute with a double-header goal off a freekick served by Lezama.
Sophomore midfielder Omar Rodriguez was a key player for the Dons, with two header goals this first half. Rodriguez has started in all of the 20 matches this season for the Dons, and contributed a total of five goals and one assist in conference play. As a box to box midfielder, Rodriguez is a player who feels comfortable going up to attack and he also doesn’t shy away from a tough tackle.
In the second half Santa Ana was surprised by a counter attack from Orange Coast at the 74th minute. With the Dons defenders running back to defend their goal, the Pirates put a low-driven cross into the box. Freshman defender Porfirio Sandoval stuck his foot out to clear the ball but ended up scoring in his own goal.
“We came out slow, we weren’t able to hold the ball just as we did in the first half,” freshman forward Jose Reuena said. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay focused for 90 minutes.”
With a final score of 3-1, the Dons ended their conference run as co-champions. Santa Ana will play at home on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. against Irvine Valley College. Ticket prices for this match are $12 for adults and $8 for students, children, faculty and senior citizens 60 and over.