Cougars get first home playoff win since 2014, unbeaten in last 10 matches
No. 9 College of the Canyons women’s soccer (14-3-4) got its first home playoff win since 2014 on Wednesday, winning 4-0 over the No. 24 Mt. San Jacinto College Gators (11-10-0).
The Cougars scored two goals on either side of halftime to secure the win in the first round of the California Community College Athletic Association Women’s Soccer Southern California Regional Playoffs, extending their unbeaten streak to 10 games dating back to Oct. 11. This is also the 11th consecutive postseason appearance for the program under head coach Justin Lundin.
Sophomore Rebekah Brooks had two goals and an assist, giving her 20 goals on the season.
“I’m super happy,” Brooks said. “I feel like our girls have come a long way with all our games. The first half was a little bit dicey, I feel like we needed to get into our shape. But second half, we picked it up, we got our goals back, and we did really good.”
This is the second year in a row that the Cougars have advanced past the opening round. The Cougars won last year in double overtime, 4-3, over Diego Mesa College before falling to Mt. San Antonio College in the second round, 2-1. This year, the Cougars will travel to No. 8 L.A. Pierce College (13-2-5) on Saturday. The match is set to kick off at 7 p.m.
“We would love to play them here, obviously. But we’re excited to play them regardless,” Lundin said. “That’s kind of a classic matchup for us. We used to be in the same conference together. It was a rivalry back then. Now that we’re not in the same conference, we don’t get to play each other as much. But that’s still a rivalry game.”
Cougars freshman Natalia Zuluaga Ramirez opened the scoring in the 18th minute after, according to Lundin, they had already created numerous scoring opportunities. The Golden Valley graduate was able to pounce on a save that came from a shot by freshman Natalie Quezada.
Lundin said that Quezada, a Saugus graduate, did well to put the shot on goal from a corner kick, allowing the rebound to occur for Ramirez.
“It was nice having [Ramirez] step up there and bury that one off the rebound, because that was about the third or fourth rebound we had in a lot of traffic, and the other three we put over the top of the crossbar,” Lundin said.
Brooks, who now ranks fifth in the state in goals, got her first goal in the 31st minute, an unassisted goal that brought a smile to her face after spending a late portion of the regular season out with a sprained ankle. She has now scored in four straight games dating back to the regular season.
“Coming back,” Brooks said, “I was like, ‘Am I going to be the same person, or am I going to be worse?’ And the past few games and this game have really shown that I still have it.”
Brooks got her second goal in the 68th minute, again unassisted. That was nearly her hat-trick goal, but a shot in the 61st minute rebounded to COC freshman Ryan Shepherd, a Saugus graduate, who slotted it home to make it 3-0.
The clean sheet was the ninth of the season for the Cougars, who saw sophomore Kyle Yuzon improve to 9-3-3 on the season in net.
“We’ve been playing strong as of late, I think, dating back to maybe the fourth game of conference,” Lundin said. “We haven’t lost in a while. We have had some hiccups where we’ve had some draws that should have been wins. But, you know, we weren’t quite focused with the full 90 minutes and so that’s something we’ve been working on, and to come out [Wednesday], close it out, get the shutout was very important for the girls.”
The Cougars’ second-round match with Pierce on Saturday matches up two teams that have not met since 2019, when the Cougars won, 3-0. They last played each other in the playoffs in 2017, the last home match for the Cougars prior to Wednesday, with the Brahmas coming out on top in penalty kicks.
The Brahmas may be ranked higher, though only by a slight margin, and Brooks thinks that she and her teammates have been tested enough this season to make a game out of any opponent.
“I have a lot of confidence,” Brooks said. “We played a lot of really, really good ranked teams. I feel like the ranking doesn’t really matter. I feel like it’s really all how we do.”