Los Angeles Soccer: Fresno City College
Celina Baguiao/College of the Canyons athletics
Coach Phil Marcellin started the College of the Canyons' women's program in 1998 and the men's team in 2003.
SANTA CLARITA -- A 1-16-6 campaign had been followed by a 4-16-3 season, and College of the Canyons men's soccer coach Philip Marcellin and his staff sat in their home stadium and watched Cerritos College capture and celebrate the 2008 state junior college championship.
It left them with a most sour taste -- and a resolution.
“We said: We're not hosting [the state final four] again,” Marcellin said, “without making every effort we can to get in it.”
Jump forward two years. The state finals have returned to Canyons, and Marcellin's Cougars are on the cusp of history.
Riding an 11-game winning streak and improbable, or so it seemed, romps over state powers Santa Ana and Fresno City, they've made it to their first state title game and will take on reigning California champion Mt. San Antonio, from Walnut, Sunday morning at 10.
It is, Marcellin notes, “a dream matchup: Home field, defending state champs. … Whatever side we end up on, I don't think we can ask for anything more than that.”
Araceli Sanchez set up a first-half goal, then delivered a death blow with 15 minutes to go as SBVC (19-1-3) reached its first state final with a 2-0 triumph over Fresno City College (19-3-2) at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita.
Cerritos (21-2-2) applied heavy pressure throughout the second half but couldn't find the net, falling, 1-0, to Santa Rosa (18-0-5), Northern California's No. 1 team.
Mt. SAC, the top seed in Southern California, overcame West Valley, 2-1, Friday in Santa Clarita on an 88th-minute penalty kick to reach the final for the third successive season. The defending champ will take on host Canyons, a 3-0 winner over Fresno City College -- Northern California's top team -- in Sunday morning's championship game.
Their link goes far deeper than that.
Sanchez was a midfield creator and Gonzalez a backline anchor for Cal State L.A.'s men's team in the early 1990s -- a breeding ground, it turns out, for outstanding coaches.
They're among several Golden Eagles from the era, all prodigies of former Mexican national-teamer Leo Cuellar, who have gone on to guide title-winning teams, and the jobs they've done this year -- no matter what occurs this weekend -- have been among their best.
Sanchez returned just five players from last year's champions for what was supposed to be a "restructuring" campaign. His Mounties are 17-1-4, ranked second in the state and fourth in the nation, and one victory -- Friday morning at 10 against Northern California's West Valley College (16-4-2) -- from an opportunity to defend their title on Sunday.
Gonzalez's Falcons (22-1-2) have more experience but are somewhat of an underdog, forced to knock off the nation's Nos. 1 and 3 teams to reach the final four. They're no favorite at Canyons, either: NorCal powerhouse Santa Rosa (17-0-5), the state's lone unbeaten side, is their foe in Friday's 4 p.m. semifinal.
The other games: Canyons (16-5-2) vs. Fresno City (15-4-3) in a men's semi at 1 p.m., and San Bernardino Valley (17-1-3) vs. Fresno City (19-2-2) in a women's clash at 7 p.m.