Champagne Showers Fall on Rams Again After Championship Victory

The+FCC+men%27s+soccer+team+hoists+the+CCCAA+Men%27s+Soccer+State+Championship+trophy+following+their+2-0+win+in+the+finals+over+the+Mt.+San+Antonio+College+Mounties+on+Sunday%2C+Dec.+8%2C+2019.

Photo by: Ben Hensley

The FCC men’s soccer team hoists the CCCAA Men’s Soccer State Championship trophy following their 2-0 win in the finals over the Mt. San Antonio College Mounties on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019.

Story By: Patrick Henslee, Reporter

Fresno City College is once again home to champions after the men’s soccer team defeated Mt. San Antonio College 2-0 on Sunday, Dec. 8 in the CCCAA Men’s Soccer Championship. The Rams hoisted the state championship trophy just two years after locking up their first-ever state title in 2017.

FCC advanced to the championship after a 1-0 victory against Cerritos College in the semifinals on Dec. 6. That win was part of a major turnaround in performance for the Rams once playoffs started.

Despite the reassuring improvement, FCC’s momentum seemed dwarfed by Mt. San Antonio’s dominance this season. The Mounties entered the match with an undefeated 22-0-3 record and totaled 80 goals along the way, nearly doubling Fresno’s total of 45. This set up an ideal narrative for the championship match.

FCC’s best shot at defeating Mt. San Antonio’s explosive offense would come through deploying their incredible defense, which hadn’t given up a goal in an astonishing 657 minutes of play. The Rams averaged only 2.2 shots per game compared to the Mounties’ 5.2 shots per game, so they’d have to capitalize on whatever opportunities they’d get on offense and defend it until the end.

Everything was going to have to be perfect.

An opportunity presented itself at 44:49 when sophomore midfielder Alexis Rodriguez set up for a free kick from 25 yards out. Rodriguez sent the shot into the top left corner for a beautiful goal that got the crowd roaring, sirens blaring and foghorns blowing.

The first half was characterized by the fight for the first leg up, but along the way some gritty play and missed calls got both teams boiling. This play carried into the second half when whistle after whistle was blown and 15 of the games’ 21 total fouls were called.

But at 78:59 sophomore forward Michael Vega leaked out ahead of the pack with the ball and took a long outside shot for FCC’s second goal, driving the dagger into Mt. San Antonio’s hopes for a championship. 

As time wore on, anticipation grew until the final whistle sounded. The Mounties were left stunned in their first loss while the Rams celebrated their second championship in three years. 

“The [2017 team] before had lost in the final in 2016, so they returned focused on trying to win it,” said head coach Eric Solberg. “This group believed they could win it as they kept going.”

FCC wouldn’t have been able to shut out Mt. San Antonio without the efforts of sophomore goalkeeper Evan Ghimenti and his backline of sophomores Angel Alvarado, Estevan Rangel and Pedro Gomes; all four were the only Rams to log 90 minutes.

“All year I’ve been trying to be more aggressive, play further off the line and come out big to help my defense win those air balls,” said Ghimenti, who had the second highest save percentage in the CCCAA with .919. FCC’s Rodrigo Selingardi was the leader with a .974 percentage.

Ghimenti saved all six shots on goal and made several stops that snuffed out the Mounties’ offense, but he credits his teammates for the season’s success.

“It’s not all on me. My defense has kept it all year. I owe it all to them,” he said. Ghimenti’s supporting cast came up big when it mattered most, with Alvarado and Gomes being awarded co-MVP honors of the championship.

“That’s as good of a backline as we’ve ever had here,” said Solberg. “We’ve had great backline players, but I don’t know that we’ve ever had a group like that.”

And with the season and everything they’ve worked so hard for put on the line, the Rams as a whole made sure everything was perfect.