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Soccer Squad Bows Out In Semifinal Round Of Playoffs
Two games this week - each with a 2-0 final - were dramatically different for Escalon's varsity Cougars soccer team. The first, a 2-0 win over Amador on Tuesday, Nov. 6, propelled the Cougars into the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs. The second, a 2-0 loss to Livingston on Nov. 8, ended the season for the soccer squad, one win short of the Section title game. Able to host both games by virtue of winning the Trans-Valley League crown, the Cougars stepped on to the field Tuesday against Amador and scored once in each half. "Amador came out very physical but I thought we matched up with them pretty well," said coach Chris Oliveira, who co-coached this season with Paul Silva. "I felt we did a good job of keeping our head and stayed physical." Ramon Valencia had the first goal of the game, a disputed score because the side of the net was not securely tied down and there was some discussion as to whether the ball went in the goal or beside it, since it came out the other side. But the goal was allowed - over Amador protests - and the Cougars had the 1-0 lead. Francisco Martinez had the assist. In the second half, Freddy Mancilla scored with an assist from Valencia to give the home team a little breathing room. A third goal, off a header by Armando Becerra, was nullified on an offsides call. The win put Escalon into the second round against Livingston, which ripped their first round opponent, Calaveras, by a 12-0 score. Keeping the Wolves under control, Escalon still fell just a little short, losing the Thursday, Nov. 8 game by a final of 2-0. "We knew they'd be strong in the midfield," Oliveira said. "Silva and I were both really pleased with the kids, we had a couple opportunities to score early that we didn't really finish ... if we had gotten an early goal, it might have been a different game." Twelve minutes in, the Wolves got on the board with a shot from 20 yards out. "It was a beautiful shot," admitted Oliveira. "We finished the half at 1-0, I told them to keep playing defense and get a clean shot. We had a nice shot in the second half that their goalie made a good save on." Livingston's second goal came on a penalty kick in the second half. "We have no complaints about it," Oliveira said of the PK, awarded when a player rushing the goal was taken out. Oliveira and Silva also have no complaints about the effort from the team, despite falling short of the final round, which Livingston went on to win, defeating Western Athletic Conference rival Patterson on Saturday for the section crown. "Like I told the kids, I'd be happier if we won, but I couldn't be any prouder," Oliveira said. Escalon will graduate its entire defensive unit, one of the best to play together in years, but has some strong players that will move up from the JV team. Captains this year were Ramon Valencia, Jose Lopez and Brian Arotca. Oliveira said he was happy for those players - and the rest of the squad - that they were able to take the TVL crown. "These guys were watching me coach a team that went 2-20 a few years ago and we told them to just have faith in the system," he said. "The guys worked hard, it has been a four-year process for a lot of them, working together and growing together." Escalon went 20-4-3 overall this season, 12-3 in league and Oliveira said he feels the gap is finally narrowing between the Trans-Valley League and the Western Athletic Conference. "We know coming from the TVL that we're not as respected as they (WAC) are," he admitted. "The TVL has improved but until we beat one of the WAC teams, we won't get the respect. We want to be mentioned in the same category with them." Oliveira said the team represented the school and city well in the playoffs, playing hard and clean throughout. "I couldn't ask for more," he said.