The very first and possibly last South Coast Conference Championship Tournament was a chance for the Pasadena City College men's soccer team to shine. The #7-seeded Lancers once again gave #2 seed Cerritos a battle in a 1-1 road tie that went the Falcons way on penalty kicks, and won the fifth place game in dramatic fashion with a last-second goal in a 2-1 win over Rio Hondo Friday at tourney host El Camino College.
The Lancers finished the 2019 season at 10-8-4 overall, but were a sparkling 2-0-1 overall in the tournament, a creation of ECC athletic director Colin Preston who modeled the NCAA in giving the eight qualifying teams an equal chance of winning the conference championship. Despite the format, it was #1 seed Mt. San Antonio beating #2 Cerritos in the title game, 2-1, for the title. Both teams happen to be the state's top two power points leaders.
PCC went 3-0-2 over its final five matches and 5-1-3 in its final nine games.
In its season finale, PCC took a 1-0 lead on a goal in the 25th minute by Andres Velasquez in a combo play off passes by Mario Urbina and Kevin Huertos. In the 79th minute, the #8 Roadrunners tied it on a penalty kick by Stefano Panebianco. The teams went well past the 90-minute mark and in the fifth minute of extra time, the Lancers struck gold. Favian Esparza sent a cross kick that Martin Manzanilla headed in for the game-winning goal.
On Nov. 12 at #6 LA Harbor, the Lancers blanked the Seahawks, 2-0, with a goal on a blast by Emmanuel Becerra (assisted by Mario Urbina) in the 31st minute and then a minute into the second half picked up an insurance goal by Carlos Navarro, who scored after a lead pass by Huertos. Goalie Steven Sandoval, who was one of the team's best players the entire tourney, made 10 saves to record the shutout.
In the opening round on Nov. 8, PCC played at Cerritos, a team the Lancers upset, 4-2, a week earlier at Robinson Stadium ending the Falcons 40-game unbeaten streak. The Lancers again gave Cerritos problems and took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Urbina in the 31st minute off a great set-up cross to the back post from Emmanuel Becerra. But five minutes later, PCC was called for a questionable foul in the box that resulted in a penalty kick goal by Cerritos' Kevin Diaz.
PCC nearly broke the tie in the final minute of regulation time but Andres Velasquez was tripped up on a near breakaway attempt. Velasquez ensuing 22-yard free kick went high over the bar. Because of the tourney format, the game then went to penalty kicks.
On the Lancers first attempt, Velasquez was stoned on a diving stop by Cerritos goalie Luis Enciso. It turned out to be the key kick as the Falcons converted on all five of their kicks, including the clincher on a score by Joel Martinez. PCC made its last four attempts on scores by Christian Ibarra, Joseph Cortez, Becerra and Sandoval. The 5-4 advantage for the Falcons allowed them to advance in the championship bracket while PCC went to the consolation bracket.
Sandoval played well in regulation, making several great saves, including a leaping stop on a header by Diaz in the 15th minute. He finished with eight saves. In the three SCC Tournament games, PCC did not allow a single goal in regular play, just two on penalty kicks. Strong defense supplied by defenders Edson Pulido, Mauricio Rodriguez, and Jared Hernandez were a big part of the team's success.
PCC head coach Gerry Mora, in his third season in charge of the program (second full year), guided the team to double figures in victories for the first time since the team's last playoff team in 2016 and just the third time the team accomplished that feat in the past 15 years.
"We had a fairly young team overall, but we really performed at a high level in the strongest conference in the state," Mora said. "I'm very proud of how we came together over the last nine games. We were as good as anyone in that tournament and it's a little disappointing we couldn't get into the postseason. I know we would have been very tough to beat."
Urbina, a freshman midfielder, led the team in points scoring with 24 (tied for the team high in goals with seven and a PCC best 10 assists). Velasquez, a first-year forward, tied Urbina for the goals lead with seven. Frosh midfielder Ernesto Angulo had six goals and four assists (second in scoring with 16 points) while freshman forwards Manzanilla and Navarro each collected five goals. The only offensive sophomore of note was Becerra, who scored five goals. The letterman Sandoval finished with a 1.83 goals against average and backstopped seven of the team's victories.
PCC's selections on the All-SCC Team will be announced next week.