Needing a win or a draw against Antelope Valley College to capture the program’s first-ever Western State Conference South Division title, the College of the Canyons men’s soccer team found itself on the brink of history on their home field on Tuesday.
Unfortunately for COC, history was put on pause, as the Cougars allowed a late goal, which gave the Marauders a 2-1 victory.
Canyons (9-5-3 overall, 6-2-1 in WSC) began the game with an aggressive attacking style of play, creating a multitude of chances as midfielder Jose Chavez used his ball skills and savvy passes to find teammates in open spots.
Six minutes into the game, Canyons struck gold when Jorge Rojas lined up to take a free kick on the edge of the 18-yard box. Rojas struck the ball with such touch that the opposing team’s goalie could only watch as the ball sailed into the top left corner of the goal.
“I usually take the free kicks in practice and it’s not the first one I scored,” Rojas said. “I just took the game as it came and I was able to put my team ahead.”
Ahead 1-0, the Cougars attack didn’t let up, probing and testing the Marauders’ back line as Cesar Dominguez and Andres Lozano got free only to have their shots bounce off the crossbar.
With under a minute left in the first half, Antelope Valley (9-5-5, 5-1-3) forward Cameron Taylor made a run down the right side of the pitch and crossed a ball into the middle of the penalty box where Joseph Perez was waiting to tap in the game-tying goal.
In the second half, the tables were turned on the Cougars as Antelope Valley created scoring opportunities on free kicks and set pieces.
As the halfway mark in the second half crept closer, things started to get chippy, forcing the referee to hand out six yellow cards and one red.
“I just try to go in as clean as possible so we can stay card-free,” said Canyons defender Kevin Santillan. “The ref was giving us more cards but we have to fight through it and learn how to play without fouling at the end of the day.”
As the speed of the game slowed down, so did the scoring chances for the Cougars with the game looking like it was going to end with a tie.
With less than a minute left in the game, Antelope Valley crossed a corner kick into the goalie box forcing goalie Gabriel Ochoa to come out. The ball bounced around and landed at the feet of Taylor for the easy tap-in goal giving the Marauders the 2-1 win.
Canyons get another crack at the program’s first-ever conference title as they travel north to take on Bakersfield at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“It’s a tough place to go and play,” said Canyons head coach Philip Marcellin. “The good news is we are still in first and we control our own destiny. If we get the win on Friday it’s all done and dusted.
“It would have been nice to close it out at home, but what are you going to do? It wasn’t our night.”
A native Angeleno, Diego is a sports aficionado that has played and covered multiple sports since he was a child. He is a graduate of California State University, Northridge and is a sports writer for The Signal.