Calistoga boys soccer wrapped up its regular-season last Friday on a down note with a 2-2 tie to Credo at Logvy Community Park on Senior Night. But on Sunday, the Wildcats received some good news: They were named the No. 2 seed in the Div II. CIF North Coast Section playoffs and have a first-round bye.
Even with the tie to Credo, the Wildcats finished the season 15-2-2 overall and won the North Central League III title outright with an 11-1-2 record.
They’ll play the winner of Wednesday night’s matchup of No. 10 Sonoma Academy (11-6-4) and No. 7 College Prep (11-6-1) on Saturday (Nov. 3). Because of CIF NCS regulations for playoff games, the Wildcats can’t play at Logvy Park and will instead host their opponent at Windsor High School. A start time for Saturday’s game has not yet been announced.
“We were glad to find out that we got the No. 2 seed because we have been working really hard all season long to get one of the top seeds,” said Calistoga head coach Danny Almanza. “Both the coaching staff and all of the students are very excited about that. I think it is the best seeding that we have placed in since I have been coaching at Calistoga.”
Calistoga has experience this season against both of its next potential opponents. The Wildcats beat College Prep 3-2 in a non-league game back on Sept. 5, and felled Sonoma Academy twice, 5-0 on Sept. 28 and then 5-2 on Oct. 24.
Knowing that Friday was their last home game at Logvy Park, the Wildcats’ seniors were especially emotional.
With their careers winding down, here’s what they had to say about their time playing for the Wildcats.
“One of my favorite moments with the soccer team is when we’d come to practice together and we’d have fun and play around even though we got in fights and arguments we were still always happy with each other at the end. The other most important part is that (coach Danny Almanza) doesn’t treat us like friends but more like brothers. Coach includes everyone. We’re all a family. This isn’t friends, this is a family, we’re brothers, and he really loves us all.”
Mario “Gio” Avina
“My favorite memory is when we won league freshman year. That was one of the most important things in my high school career. We’re like a family not just a soccer team that just comes together and practices and forgets each other right after. We’re just a family and this really got me to talk to them more and get closer to each other. We just have fun everywhere we go.”
“My favorite part is when we’d go out to away games and after we’d have fun and go eat. Sometimes we would go eat at the mall and we’d go play Cops and Robbers and we’d run around. Sometimes the security would get us in trouble. Every time we’d go eat, we’d roast each other and mess around. And at all the homes games, we’d go to Prima (Pizzeria) and would talk and roast each other and have some laughs.”
“My favorite memory is joining this team. When I joined this team, it was like a family for me. These guys are amazing, every practice, every game we go out and we play with our hearts and with passion. That’s everything for me. Knowing these guys and playing with these guys is an honor for me. I feel that these are my friends, this is a family and that’s my favorite memory, going out with these guys.”
Almanza has a special bond with this group of players. He joined the Wildcats’ staff in 2015 when the seniors were only freshmen. He reflected on how they’ve grown over the years.
“It’s been nice to see them as they’ve both grown and matured as players and students and become more responsible,” he said. “Being the guys, I don’t want to say that were picked on but as freshmen they had to go get the balls, etc. In my first year they were those guys and now, going from that to being the main leaders out here helping carry the younger guys and motivating them at practice and at games, it’s been good watching them grow.
“Obviously, they’re some of the most consistent in terms of being on the team and coming to practices so over time, they’ve really improved a lot. You can tell in their playing. It’s been nice to coach them.”