Counting down the 11 biggest 2011 stories in Southern California soccer ...
The best soccer team in Southern California? Relatively speaking, it might be Mt. San Antonio College's men, who claimed a third successive state community college crown while extending their unbeaten streak to 38 games.
Danny Amaya (Rialto/Marshall HS) scored on a scorching blast to the upper corner, off the top of the post, midway through the second half to give the Walnut-based Mounties (22-0-3) a 1-0 triumph over Hartnell, from Salinas, in the final earlier this month in Sacramento. Mt. SAC posted its 14th shutout and sixth in its last seven games.
“You know what? It's awesome,” said head coach Juan Sanchez, who has taken the Mounties to four straight state final fours. “It's kind of like a dream. To win the first one was very difficult, No. 2 was very hard, and now No. 3 is just -- there's no words that can describe the feelings.”
The Mounties lost to Cerritos in the 2008 state title game, beat Taft with an experienced group in 2009 and unexpectedly cruised to the title last year with a young squad. This year's title wasn't unanticipated.
Sanchez had 14 sophomores at his disposal, including goalkeeper Alfredo Ontiveros (La Puente/Arroyo HS), the NSCAA JC Division III (non-scholarship) Player of the Year, first-team All-America defender Eric Flores (Pomona/Garey HS) and second-team All-America forward Luis Fuentes (Baldwin Park/Sierra Vista HS), who led Mt. SAC with 20 goals for 14 in his two-year career.
Sanchez, who played under Leo Cuellar at Cal State L.A. and professionally in Mexico and in U.S. indoor leagues (including a stint in the mid-'90s with the Anaheim Splash), was the JC West Region Coach of the the Year for the third time and is a finalist for the national honor. The Mounties won the unofficial D3 national title by finishing first in the NSCAA's national poll.
“This group really became a tight-knit family,” Sanchez said. “You could see it in the beauty of the way they play, the way they're there for each other. It's just really nice to see this end for these guys the way it happened.”