NVC men's soccer season comes to an end with 4-0 loss to Santa Rosa in NorCal Regionals
Photos courtesy of Mario Cendejas
By MARTY JAMES
SANTA ROSA – Due to a number of injuries, Napa Valley College was down to just 12 players who were healthy and available to play at one point during the men's soccer season. The Storm was in the midst of playing a very difficult nonconference lineup of opponents and was looking to do everything it could to prepare for the upcoming Bay Valley Conference season as the two-time defending champion. It was not an easy road to travel.
"The guys on the bench really took care of the team for a good amount of time in the beginning and conference," coach Rogelio Ochoa said. "Everyone stepped up when they had to and I thought collectively they worked really hard. I'm really proud of that."
There is certainly so much for Ochoa to be proud of, as the Storm won a third straight Bay Valley title and advanced to the 2019 California Community College Athletic Association Championships. They were playing some of their best soccer of the season as they took a four-game winning streak into Saturday's Northern California Regional Round 1 match against Santa Rosa Junior College, the No. 1 seed in the 16-team, single-elimination bracket.
"The whole season, I think the guys have improved every, every moment. And it showed throughout the season," said Ochoa. "We started out a little rough with a tough schedule, but as we progressed, we got better and better and better.
"We've got to take our hats off to Santa Rosa. We did what we could. We made them uncomfortable. The first goal was off of our mistake, and you can't do that against this caliber of team. But our boys played well. We took the ball in the second half we put it on the ground. We try to play. We try to possess. And I thought we did a good job, but we just couldn't finish it. We couldn't get the ball to the last third and be too dangerous."
Napa Valley's season came to an end with a 4-0 loss to Santa Rosa, as the Bear Cubs scored twice in the first half and scored two more goals in the second half, as they extended their winning streak to seven in a row.
Sergio Valenzuela, a midfielder, scored twice to lead Santa Rosa (17-1-2 overall, 9-0-1 Big 8 Conference). Eric Guzman Leyva, a forward, and Alan Soto, a forward, each scored a goal for the Bear Cubs, who out-shot the Storm, 15-2.
Carlos Ayala (goal keeper), Bryan Reynoso-Gutierrez (defender), Javier Rodriguez (midfield), Alex Cendejas (midfield), Luis Moreno (forward), Marcos Manzo (midfield), Jesus Ochoa (midfield), Nicholas Erwin (defender), Julio Alonzo (defender), William Biondini (forward), and Cruz Palafox (defender) started the match for Napa Valley (9-8-2 overall, 8-1-1 Bay Valley Conference), the No. 16 seed in the bracket.
Ayala made 16 saves. He also received a yellow card.
"Carlos is an amazing goalkeeper, a great goalkeeper. He's always been amazing, since he played club and since high school," said Rogelio Ochoa. "He made some saves where you just scratch your head, like how do you do that?
"I thought today he kept three or four clear opportunities off. The ones they scored, you can't do much. There's only so much you can do."
Valenzuela's first goal came in the 24th minute off an assist from Jalen Roman, a forward. Ayala made a diving attempt at the shot on the left side of the goal area.
Guzman Leyva's goal was in the 40th minute, with the assist going to Kevin Lira, a midfielder.
Valenzuela's second goal was in the 70th minute. Soto had the assist.
Soto's goal came in the 75th minute of play. Adrian Fontanelli, a midfielder and the Big 8 Conference Player of the Year, had the assist.
Santa Rosa, the Big 8 Conference champion, came into the match having outscored its opponents, 65-14, while averaging 3.42 goals per game and taking 16.7 shots per game.
"We knew they have very dangerous players up top," said Rogelio Ochoa. "They hit the counter attack very, very well. Transition game is very dangerous. The game plan was to make them uncomfortable as we could and I thought we were doing a good job when it was 0-0.
"Against this team, you can't give away those little mistakes. Once they got that first one and it was just hard. It was hard to go up uphill."
Ayala, Manzo and Moreno all stood out for Napa Valley.
"Marcos Monzo I thought controlled the game a lot better in the second half," said Rogelio Ochoa.
Santa Rosa had four corner kicks. Napa Valley took three corner kicks.
The match was played in sunny, 72-degree weather, with a large crowd looking on.
"They have a great team. Each substitution they did was at the same level," said Jesus Ochoa. "We kind of killed ourselves by allowing two goals like that really fast. I feel like we tried, but they just didn't go in."
Napa Valley had allowed just one goal over its last four matches coming into the NorCal Regionals. The Storm was the only team from the Bay Valley to reach the playoffs.
"We are definitely upset because we lost, but we're walking out of here and we're leaving with our heads up high because we know we put our heart out there," said Cendejas. "We held our ground for the most part.
"Our preseason was really rough. We played top opponents."
NVC was 1-5-1 at the start of the season.
"We went into conference, we took care of business and we made history. We put up a fight against the No. 1 team in NorCal," said Cendejas.
The Storm did not achieve its season-long goal of winning a first-round playoff game. But the future of the program definitely looks bright.
"We can't start slow and then start playing our best soccer later on in the season," said Rogelio Ochoa. "We have to win those close games that we lost against nonconference teams, so we can probably avoid the top four or five teams in the first round. I think that's the next step."
Rogelio Ochoa is also the head coach for Napa Valley 1839 FC, a third-year local men's amateur soccer team which plays in the National Premier Soccer League West Region Conference. Napa Valley 1839 FC plays a regular-season schedule in the Golden Gate Division and this fall played in the NPSL Members Cup, a tournament that ended last month.
It's the third straight loss for NVC in the first round of the Northern California Regionals. The Storm lost to West Valley-Saratoga, 3-0, in 2018. The Storm lost to Hartnell-Salinas, 7-0, during the 2017 season.
Seven other Round 1 matches were scheduled for Saturday.
"We are a good program," said Jesus Ochoa. "The next step is not to be just conference champions, but the goal is to win in that first round, and then hopefully do something in state."
The Regionals continue with Round 2, scheduled for Nov. 26 or 27, and Round 3, scheduled for Nov. 30. The state finals are scheduled for Dec. 6 and 8 at De Anza College in Cupertino.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association, Associated Press Sports Editors, and California Prep Sports Media Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Vintage High School Athletic Hall of Fame in September of 2019.