Now that the regular season is over, head coach Ruben Gonzalez and his Cerritos College women’s soccer team can now turn their attention to the playoffs.
Nov. 19 not only marks the first game for the postseason, it officially marks the start of the team’s quest for its fifth-straight state championship.
Forward Itzel Ballesteros said, “We cope with the pressure by taking it one game at a time. We make sure to be focused on the smaller goal first such as winning the first round game and from there we keep going.
“We have very supportive teammates and a very supportive coaching staff and that helps as well.”
That philosophy is something that Ballesteros has obviously learned from Gonzalez and company.
“We really don’t think about it. We take it a game at a time, the goal every year is to win a championship,” he said.
It’s nothing new for all involved as for the past four-plus seasons the team has been the hunted as opposed to the hunter.
Gonzalez doesn’t like to give that idea too much thought.
“We just go out and play hard,” he said.
During the regular season, the team went a remarkable 19-1, with a blemish free 8-0 conference record.
The record alone isn’t telling enough of how good Cerritos has been over the last five years. The Falcons are a combined 111-4-6, that is a 91 percent win percentage over four seasons.
“It says a lot about how much work is put into practices and games. It shows that all of our dedication, time and effort pays off,” Ballesteros said.
The team’s only loss came at the hands of Fresno City on Sept. 28. The final score was 2-0.
Because of that Ballesteros does not mince words when it comes to her feelings about the Fresno City Rams.
“I want to see Fresno City [in the playoffs] to avenge our only loss because the team gives us a very good and competitive game and I believe the outcome can be different from before,” she said.
On the other hand Gonzalez said, “If it happens, great. But that is not our goal, we will play whatever team is in front of us.”
The past three meetings between the two teams have been a soccer fan’s dream match-up.
It started in 2014, with the Falcons secured a 2-1 win over the Rams in overtime. The two teams tied at two in August of 2015.
Cerritos would get the final laugh in December of 2015, with a 3-1 win in Cupertino, CA. The win sent the Falcons to the state title game.
Gonzalez feels one major reason for the success of Fresno City is its coaching.
That hasn’t been the only foe for the Falcons, three of the four state titles have been won against the same team; the Santiago Canyon Hawks.
Ballesteros said, “I believe the [Hawks] are putting in the work necessary to be in the playoffs every single year. Every team has the same goal as us, which is to win and I believe that is what they keep striving for.”
Currently, Fresno City (16-3-2) and Santiago Canyon (19-0-1) are headed to the playoffs with just as much momentum as the Falcons.
Ballesteros would only go as far as to call one of them rivals.
“I believe Fresno City is definitely a rival because there is a certain amount of tension between both teams. Especially, because of the outcome of the game [in September],” she said.