The College of the Canyons women’s soccer team will enter the postseason as the No. 3 seed in the California Community College Athletic Association Women’s Soccer Southern California Regional Playoffs, which begin on Thursday. Canyons (12-3-4) will host the winner of Thursday’s play-in game between No. 14 Santa Barbara City College (12-6-1) and No. 19 Citrus College (11-8-1). That game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the new COC soccer facility. The Cougars have some recent history with both potential opponents. SBCC defeated COC 2-1 back on Sept. 27, in a home game played at The Master’s University. In that match, the Vaqueros jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute with a penalty kick goal, then extended the lead to 2-0 before the half. The lone score for COC came by way of a free kick from freshman defender Hailey Phipps in the 59th minute. The loss was the last suffered by head coach Justin Lundin’s team, as COC bounced back from that stinging result to win its next seven matches, before finishing 7-0-3 down the stretch. Canyons experienced a similar turn of events last season. Following a 1-0 loss to Santa Barbara on Sept. 18, 2015, COC went undefeated in its final 17 regular season contests heading into the playoffs. However, the Cougars then went on to suffer a 2-1 first-round playoff loss to Santiago Canyon College — a fate the program’s 10 sophomores will no doubt try to reverse this time around. Included in COC’s undefeated streak were two matchups with conference rival Citrus. The Cougars defeated the Owls 2-0 in a home match back on Oct. 21, then played to a 0-0 draw in the second meeting held Nov. 8 in Glendora. Citrus finished third in the Western State Conference, East Division. Likewise, SBCC finished third in the WSC, North Division. Meanwhile, Canyons won the WSC, East championship to claim the program’s sixth straight conference title, and 10th overall. COC finished the regular season with a conference leading 11 shutouts and a 0.78 goals against average, having surrendered just 14 scores on the season. Led by sophomore goalkeeper Kianna Hemphill, Canyons posted nine shutouts in its final 10 games. Offensively, COC’s 41 goals ranked sixth in the conference while the mark of 301 shots was good for third place. Twelve players have scored at least one goal this season, including sophomore forward Amanda Balzer, who leads the team with seven. COC sophomore Jackie Mendez and freshmen Angel Quintero and Hailey Phipps are all tied for second on the team with six goals apiece. Sophomore Kailey Marquez is also a scoring threat with four goals on the year. The 2016 CCCAA Women’s Soccer State Championship will be held Dec. 2-4, at Ventura College. A full women’s soccer playoff bracket can be found at www.CCCAAsports.org.
COC baseball players Anthony Lepre and Justin Dehn will both have an opportunity to continue their respective careers at the next level after inking National Letters of Intent last week. Lepre has opted to sign with University of California, Riverside. The Highlanders are an NCAA Division I program competing in the Big West Conference. Dehn will head to New Mexico State University. The Aggies are an NCAA Division I program from the Western Athletic Conference. Both are expected to play their sophomore season at Canyons, before transferring to their new schools in fall 2017. In 2016, Lepre was an American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings Pacific Association Division All-America First Team honoree after batting .401 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs in 38 games for the Cougars. The freshman catcher also earned selections to the 2016 California Community College Athletic Associations Southern California All-State and Southern California Pacific Association ABCA/Rawlings All-Region First Team, and was an All-Western State Conference (WSC) First Team honoree for the Cougars. Dehn was an All-WSC Second Team honoree last season after compiling a 4-1 record to go with 45 strikeouts in 49 innings of work. The freshman right-hander made 10 starts for the Cougars, while his rate of 8.27 strikeouts per nine innings ranked third on the team among hurlers with at least 10 appearances.
As has become tradition, the COC cross country programs will travel north for this year’s CCCAA Cross Country State Championship meet, being held Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno. The COC women’s team placed seventh at the CCCAA SoCal Regional Championships held earlier this month. The men’s team finished 18th to also qualify for the state meet. COC sophomore Jessica Ruiz placed seventh in SoCal with a time of 18 minutes, 56.1 seconds on the 5K course and should be a top contender at the state meet. Last season, Ruiz finished in 10th place with a time of 18:34.7 at the state championships to lead the Cougars to a third-place team finish. She was named a 2015 JC All-American. Sophomore Chelsea Wells also competed at last year’s event, turning in a time of 19:40.2 to finish 23rd. The men’s team, however, will feature a group of runners entirely new to the state championship atmosphere, with COC sophomore Jake Higdon and freshman Garrett Noltemeyer expected to lead the Cougars’ pack. Last season the COC men’s team ran to a third-place finish, led by 2015 CCCAA Individual State Champion Ethan Walker.