The Napa Valley College men’s soccer team clinched the Bay Valley Conference title and a berth in the state playoffs with a 2-1 victory over Contra Costa on Friday at home.
The Comets (7-2-1 BVC) took a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute and carried it into halftime. But Napa Valley (8-2 BVC), which had fallen to Contra Costa 4-1 in San Pablo on Wednesday, equalized 13 minutes after halftime.
“Christian (Diaz) hit a great switch and Dominic (DeBenedetti) made a great run on the right side and got one-on-one with the goalkeeper and shot it past him,” Storm head coach Rogelio Ochoa said.
Eight minutes later, Diaz got another assist on a long throw-in and Kenny Jaramillo flicked it past the goalkeeper.
With Marco Gomez getting a red card and ejected 20 minutes into the game, Napa Valley had to play most of it with just 10 players.
“We became very defensive to try to hold them off and boys did a good job,” Ochoa said. “They had one clear opportunity from there because the defense and goalkeeper stepped up to the plate. Contra Costa was trying to attack different ways, but we were able to defend really well.
“A man down, you’ve got to run more to make up for that player missing. That’s what we did. The boys knew what was at stake and did really well.”
The Storm had also had to play a man down in a preseason game against College of the Redwoods and managed to come back from a 2-1 deficit to win 3-2.
Jaramillo got a red card only last Friday in a 4-2 loss at Yuba and couldn’t play on Monday, but the Storm still beat the visiting 49ers 4-0 to set up the two-game showdown with Contra Costa.
“It’s a very physical game and once you get to the end of the season it becomes somewhat emotional and that’s what we have to control,” Ochoa said. “There’s been a lot on the line, especially in the last couple of games, so we’ve needed to stay composed.
“We were in first place all season and then we lose one match against Contra Costa and just like that, we’re in second. So we really had to step up and rise to the occasion, and the boys did well.”
Ochoa said goalkeeper Edwin Martinez and center back Jake Lustig lead a defense that has posted several shutouts this season.
Lustig and Diaz, who both have NCAA Division II experience, have helped the team control the tempo.
“It’s the game within the game,” Ochoa said, “when to hold the ball, when to release it, when to go for a long ball. It’s something we coaches try to teach but not every athlete understands, and I think we have multiple players who know how to do that.”